Ottawa: The Canadian government will provide C$19 billion ($13 billion) to the country’s provinces and territories to help fund a “safe restart” of the economy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced.
The direct transfers are part of a comprehensive agreement to help those governments cover some of their budgetary costs over the next six to eight months as they reopen and prepare for a possible second wave of COVID-19, the CBC News quoted Trudeau as saying on Thursday at a press conference on Parliament Hill here.
The Prime Minister had previously pledged C$14 billion, but many premiers said that amount was not nearly enough to cover their needs.
“COVID-19 isn’t just a health crisis. It’s an economic crisis, too.
“When we talk about the recovery phase, it’s not just about making sure we can detect, control and prevent future outbreaks. It’s also about helping people, businesses and entire communities adjust to our new normal,” he said.
The funding will focus on seven priority areas, including C$4.2 billion for enhanced COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, C$4.5 billion for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line and essential workers, and C$625 million to fund more child care spaces so that parents can get back to work, according to a government background document, said the CBC News report.
The government will put up to C$2 billion toward the operating costs of Canadian cities for six to eight months; provinces and territories will be required to match that amount from their funds.
It will also match any new funding that provinces and municipalities put toward public transit, up to C$1.8 billion.
As part of the agreement, the government will create a temporary national sick leave program — providing ten days of paid sick leave to those who don’t already have it through their employers — at an estimated cost of C$1.1 billion.
Additional funds will go toward improving the state of long-term care, and to fund mental health services and tackle homelessness.