Alberta government announces $170M to support seniors amid COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Alberta announces $170M investment in seniors and supportive living centres'
Alberta announces $170M investment in seniors and supportive living centres
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announces details of a $170-million investment into long-term and designated supportive living facilities. – May 19, 2020

The provincial government announced on Tuesday $170 million in funding to help support vulnerable seniors in Alberta amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials said the funding will go towards enhancing staffing, providing more cleaning supplies and addressing lost accommodation revenue at long-term care facilities, designated supportive living facilities and seniors lodges across Alberta as the province looks to slowly relaunch the economy.

“We know from our experience over the past few months that seniors are most at risk from COVID-19,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said.

“If our province is to carefully and gradually lift public health restrictions, we must first make sure our most vulnerable will remain safe. This funding is another step in that direction and complements ongoing efforts.”

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The funding is retroactively available from March 15, and will see $14.2 million per month allocated to senior facilities across the province.

Click to play video: '33 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths for Alberta on Tuesday'
33 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths for Alberta on Tuesday

Officials said each facility that receives funding is required to provide a report on how the money is being spent and must return any funding not used for COVID-19-related purposes.

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The funding will be distributed in coordination with Alberta Health Services and the Ministry of Seniors and Housing.

“Throughout this emergency, we have been working closely with 150 seniors lodge operators across the province,” Minister of Seniors and Housing Josephine Pon said.

“They’re doing an excellent job of supporting and protecting seniors in the facility during this time, but they have made it clear that additional resources are needed in order to comply with new health orders.”

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Pon added that this funding is an element of the province’s relaunch plan, and will be available until public health orders are rescinded across Alberta.

“Today’s funding is another important part of a ring of defence in confidence-building around seniors,” Pon said.

“It will go towards maintaining strong restrictions, prevention measures and protocols in place to protect our seniors throughout all stages of the relaunch.”

READ MORE: No new COVID-19 deaths in Alberta as province eases reopening requirement for businesses

Lori Sigurdson, the Opposition NDP’s critic for Seniors and Housing, questioned the timing of the funding announcement.

“We know that 75 per cent of the deaths in Alberta are in continuing care facilities,” she said. “People have lost their lives because there wasn’t enough support.

“This is a serious matter. It is too late for sure. We’re glad they’re stepping up finally, but there have been grave consequences because of the delay.”

Officials said this funding will be provided in addition to the $24.5 million that was previously promised to supportive living and long-term care facilities in Alberta, as well as funding to increase health-care aide staffing levels and wages.

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–With files from Global News’ Julia Wong

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