$10M pledged to cover COVID-related staffing costs in Manitoba’s disability, child-care, CFS sectors

The Manitoba government is funnelling $10 million to address pandemic-related staffing needs in the disability services, child-care and child welfare sectors, the province announced Tuesday. 

The payout will address staffing challenges, including overtime costs, replacement staff or paying for sick time, Families Minister Heather Stefanson said.

She said during the second wave of the pandemic, 25 agencies that work with vulnerable Manitobans have reported cases of COVID-19. Those agencies now have 34 program participants and 67 staff with active cases of the illness.

“This rate of spread in our disability services sector is creating staffing challenges for many of our agencies,” Stefanson told the media briefing. 

“I want to assure vulnerable Manitobans and their families that our government is taking action to address these staffing challenges.”

The new $10-million benefit will help agencies to staff their operations to appropriate levels, Stefanson said.

Non-profit Community Living disABILITY Services residential home providers, child and family services group home providers and child-care centres are all eligible to apply for the funding.

The first payout will be provided upfront and subsequent payments will follow, a provincial news release said.

Stefanson said the funding is allocated based on need, but she didn’t provide an estimate per facility or employees. The applications are open.

Based on projections, the government estimates that approximately $6 million will be doled out to the disability sector, $3 million to child care and $1 million to child and family services, up until March 2021.

Families Minister Heather Stefanson didn’t have an estimate for how much each organization may receive, but said the $10 million commitment is ‘fairly generous.’ (Global)

“I can’t predict how many people will be sick in the disability sector and the child-care sector and the CFS sector, but what we’re doing and how we’ve allocated this so far is based on the number of staff within each of those areas,” Stefanson said.

The families minister said the government would gauge whether any additional money is required. 

“We think that this is a fairly generous contribution within those communities,” she said.

Her department has also created a COVID-19 rapid response team of eight staff to respond to calls for support from the organizations serving adults with disabilities.

Nurses hired for disability sector

Two pandemic response nurses have also been hired to help out, she said.

Meanwhile, the NDP called on the provincial government to fund increased staffing at organizations that support Manitobans who don’t have permanent housing.

“We’ve heard reports that shelters have had to turn people away because they do not have the staffing or resources to give people the help they need during the pandemic,” said Bernadette Smith, the Opposition critic for mental health and addictions.

Smith is also asking for more funding for emergency shelter beds and to reinstate the temporary moratorium on evictions for people who cannot pay rent during the pandemic. 

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