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Métis Nation of Alberta announces COVID-19 support plan

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The Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) has released a province-wide action plan in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The plan aims to respond to the immediate needs of Métis Nation citizens who have been affected by the pandemic.

“This is an unprecedented time and many Métis Nation citizens and families — like so many all over the world — have been impacted by loss of income, home insecurity, school and daycare closures, mental stress and isolation and other life-changing situations,” MNA’s president, Audrey Poitras, said in a statement on Monday.

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“The MNA is taking action to ease some of the stresses Métis Nation citizens and families are experiencing so that we can all wait out this pandemic in safety and security.”

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The Interim COVID-19 Support Plan encompasses key areas of need for Métis Nation citizens, including housing, family and child care support.

The plan was made possible through funding from the MNA, its affiliates and $7.5 million from the federal government through the COVID-19 Indigenous Community Support Fund.

While the MNA awaits the arrival of the federal funds, officials said the support plan will be delivered through its province-wide self-government structure in an effort to provide immediate relief for its members.

The plan includes additional funding for the following four programs:

Citizens, Families and Seniors Direct Support Program

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The MNA has committed $1.2 million that will be divided between each of the MNA’s six regions. The program aims to provide immediate support for Métis Nation citizens and families in need.

Emergency Child Wellness Benefit Program

The program was made to help support families with children who’ve been impacted by school and daycare closures. The program will provide Métis families a maximum of $500 per eligible child, to a maximum total payment of $2,500 per household, over three months. The program will run from April through to June.

Emergency Rent Supplement Program

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The program is offered through a partnership with the Métis Capital Housing Corporation. The program will offer rental relief of $1,000 per month for a total of three months for renters directly impacted by the pandemic.

Officials noted the program will be administered until funds are no longer available, and will be operated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Benevolent Fund Top Up

The already-existing fund is being increased by $500 per applicant due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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MNA’s vice-president, Dan Cardinal, said the interim plan will allow the MNA’s more than 43,000 members to quickly access the help they need during the pandemic.

“During this time of crisis, we want to ensure no Métis Nation citizen or family in Alberta is left behind,” Cardinal said.

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“Our plan is about directly investing in and supporting Métis people and families. It is responsive, preliminary and adaptable based on what we hear from Métis Nation citizens over the weeks to come and how this pandemic evolves.”

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An affiliate of the MNA and a major contributor to the support plan, Rupertsland Institute (RLI), has established a community emergency support program, which will provide $75,000 to each MNA region.

The funding will assist in the development of these community-based responses over the next three months.

RLI is also working with schools to provide Chromebooks to Métis students so they can participate in Alberta’s virtual K to 12 classrooms.

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Officials noted the relief funding is an evolving plan, and financing for programs may be changed or updated as needed while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.