WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government has announced a grant program to encourage people to stay at home and keep each other safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cathy Cox, Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister, along with Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires, announced the Safe at Home program Monday afternoon at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

The Safe at Home program is a $3 million grant program for organizations to produce programs to have residents stay home during the holidays and promote mental wellness for people at home. Possible programs include live-streams of performing arts, at-home fitness classes, art classes for children, and cooking programs. All programs must be free to participate in.

“We are very excited to invite organizations from across our province to create programs that bring Manitobans together, while we are physically apart,” Cox said.

“Manitoba is home to so many diverse artists, cultural organizations, and festivals. I am looking forward to enjoying all of the creative ways that they bring programming into our homes.”

Several programs have already been approved, including a virtual Legislative Building Open House, which will stream on Dec. 18, a pre-filmed variety show from the Royal Manitoba Theatre Company on Dec. 19, and an exercise for building gingerbread houses by Skills Manitoba.

“We recognize that staying home this holiday season, and not being able to see our friends and family, will be very difficult,” Squires said. “We all have someone we should stay at home for, and additional programming over the holidays will make that time a little easier, we hope.”

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, The United Way of Winnipeg, The Winnipeg Foundation, The Manitoba Art Council, and Sport Manitoba is involved in adjudicating and promoting the program.

Sport Manitoba already had an initiative using this funding in motion.

"We have a program called Fit Kids/ Health Kids and it's a program of physical literacy and it helps Manitoba families with games and activities that encourage fundamental movement skills," said Janet McMahon, the interim president and CEO of Sport Manitoba.

The purpose of Safe at Home Manitoba is to bring attractions and activities to Manitobans and encourage staying home, but McMahon said she believes it may provide exposure for those in the fitness industry even after the pandemic is over.

"This will remove some of the financials. These things will be accessible and not cost you anything, you just have to go online," she said. "I think in a lot of ways it will be a win-win for those people who can be creative and promote physical activity."

Each project can receive up to $50,000, and are open to municipalities, First Nations, not-for-profit organizations, individual artists, and universities, among other programs. Successful applicants are expected to have content accessible by March 31.

More information on the program can be found here. 

-with files from CTV's Joey Slattery.