WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government announced on Wednesday it will expand the Back to Work wage subsidy program and provide more funding for businesses to create more employment opportunities in the province.

Premier Brian Pallister made the announcement at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Wednesday.

“We are leading the country, but we are not out of the woods yet,” he said.

“And I wouldn’t want my statement today to be misconstrued as suggesting we should ease off in any way our efforts as we move forward. We have more Manitobans unemployed than in any time since the Great Depression, a high percentage of people are looking for work, higher than has ever been the case in the lifetime of most Manitobans.”

Statistics Canada said Manitoba’s unemployment rate was 10.1 per cent for June.

The new expanded program will reimburse up to $5,000 for up to 10 new workers for a maximum of $50,000per business, non-profit, or charity.

The province noted that any businesses that have already used the summer wage subsidies are still eligible to take part in this benefit and hire or bring back another 10 employees. It added that any employers that have received financial aid from other provincial or federal programs are still eligible as well.

The program will also reimburse half of all wages for those newly hired to Oct. 31.

“Our expansion and deepening of our programs will allow employers and employees to offer the services that Manitobans depend upon and rely upon and to help us to recover,” the premier said.

Businesses will be able to apply for the wage subsidy program starting on July 16 at noon. The application deadline is Oct. 1, and the deadline to submit proof of wages is Jan. 4, 2021.

“We’ve led in creating a safe environment for our people and that has enabled us to lead in terms of our economic recovery as well,” Pallister said.

“We understand that the safety of our people is paramount, but being safe and being unemployed is hardly a recipe for joy or success in life and so what we’re after here is being safe and employed instead.”

The province also announced it’s extending the deadline for applications for the Manitoba Gap Protection program to Aug. 31.