Manitoba front-line workers to get $1,500 to recognize work during pandemic

WINNIPEG — Many front-line workers in Manitoba are to receive $1,500 each later this week in recognition of the role they have played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Brian Pallister revealed the final details Wednesday of Manitoba's share of a national program that gives a one-time pay top-up to people who work with the public during the pandemic and therefore face a greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

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"I know it hasn't been easy, actually for most Manitobans through this process," Pallister said.

"But we are in this together and we are supportive people of one another."

The program, initially announced in May, is funded 75 per cent by the federal government but each province gets to determine which workers are eligible.

The program was also limited to people who earn less than $5,000 per month.

Manitoba's share works out to $120 million and just over 78,000 applicants qualified. Because the payment is taxable, the province will withhold 10 per cent and recipients will see $1,377 deposited into their bank accounts, the government said.

Most of the recipients work in the retail, hospitality and health care sectors, Pallister said. Other areas include social work and transportation.

The Opposition New Democrats said many workers may not have been informed of the program and the need to have applied before the June 29 deadline.

"Many eligible (Manitobans) haven't applied for it and won't receive the help they need," New Democrat legislature member Mark Wasyliw said in a message on social media.

Provincial health officials announced three new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total of confirmed and probable cases to 407. Manitoba's numbers have spiked in recent weeks. There was only one active case in early July. There were 74 Wednesday, and six people were in hospital.

The province's chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, has so far stopped short of mandating the use of masks in public areas, but has said the importance of wearing them will likely increase as fall arrives along with the traditional flu season.

Pallister said Wednesday he wouldn't want people to assume a mask is a cure-all.

"There can be a danger with masks if people assume that social distancing no longer is relevant," he said.

"To put it in street language, people get a phoney sense of security when they wear a mask."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2020

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