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Manitoba government boosts back-to-work wage subsidy program amid coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus: Manitoba government boosts back-to-work wage subsidy program
The Manitoba government is again expanding a back-to-work program designed to push employers to bring back workers amid COVID-19. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday the Back to Work Manitoba program, which offers to reimburse 50 per cent of wage costs up to $5,000 for businesses that hire or rehire up to 10 employees between July 16 and Oct. 31, will now be doubled.

The Manitoba government is again expanding a back-to-work program designed to push employers to bring back workers amid COVID-19.

Manitoba Premeir Brian Pallister said Wednesday the Back to Work Manitoba program, which offers to reimburse 50 per cent of wage costs up to $5,000 for businesses that hire or rehire up to 10 employees between July 16 and Oct. 31, will now be doubled.

That means the program is now available for up to 20 employees, and sees the maximum subsidy offered to businesses rise to $1000,000.

Read more: Manitoba program to share costs of hiring, rehiring for businesses amid coronavirus

“The Back to Work Manitoba Initiative is a key component as we continue to reopen our communities and safely restart our recovery,” said Pallister in a government release.

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“Nearly 40,000 Manitobans are looking to get back to work and back up on their feet. To meet additional demand and support employers to hire and bring back more staff, we are doubling the number of employees eligible for a wage subsidy.”

This marks the second time the back-to-work program has been expanded.

Originally the plan paid businesses that hired or brought back staff up to $5,000 per employee, to a maximum of five workers, but in July Pallister announced it would be enhanced to see businesses reimbursed up to $5,000 for up to 10 new workers, to a maximum of $50,000.

Read more: Manitoba says program to boost student summer jobs amid COVID-19 helping nearly 3K find work

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On Wednesday the province said the program has received applications from 445 employers for 2,429 employees. Pallister said more than $12 million in financial support have been supplied through the subsidy as of Tuesday.

He said nearly 40 per cent of the employers have applied for the previous maximum of 10 employees, including nearly two-thirds of the businesses that applied from the restaurant and hospitality industry.

“As we learn to live with COVID-19, our government continues to look for safe opportunities to get Manitobans back to work,” said Pallister.

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“Many businesses are adapting and finding ways to operate safely and offer services that Manitobans rely on, and we want to support them as they rebuild to pre-pandemic staffing levels.”

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Read more: Keep working from home if it works for you: Manitoba’s chief public health officer to employers

The application deadline for the expanded back-to-work program is Oct. 1 and employers are will be required to provide proof of payment of wages by Jan. 4, 2021. Details and an application form are available on the province’s website.

As well as the Back to Work program, the government also previously launched a program to encourage employing students by providing businesses a $7/hour subsidy to hire up to five summer students.

Province extends back to work subsidy program
Province extends back to work subsidy program

Under another plan, the Manitoba Gap Protection Program, launched in April, businesses have been eligible to access an interest-free, potentially forgivable loan of up to $6,000. Available to small and medium businesses, the program was funded up to $120 million.

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In early May, the province started a phased approach to easing public health restrictions put in place to stem the virus’ spread that had forced many businesses to close their doors at the start of the pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus: Manitoba unveils four-level pandemic plan and response, masks made mandatory for some students

The loosened rules have seen the reopening of businesses including restaurants, bars and shopping centres with restrictions, and most recently saw movie theatres and casinos allowed to reopen at a reduced capacity in late July.

But this week some restrictions have been put back in place in the Prairie Mountain Health region, which includes Brandon, Dauphin and other communities in much of the western part of the province.

Brandon businesses prepare for new restrictions
Brandon businesses prepare for new restrictions

The new rules in the Prairie Health region are meant to help stop an outbreak in cases in the area and include limiting gathering sizes to 10 people both indoor and outdoor, and mandatory mask use for indoor and public spaces, as well as at any public gatherings.

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On Tuesday health officials identified 25 new cases, and another death — Manitoba’s 13th death since the virus arrived in the province in March.

Another 25 new cases were reported Wednesday, bringing the total number of known lab-confirmed cases reported in Manitoba to 1,043.

Read more: Manitoba health officials report 1 new coronavirus death, 25 new cases

There are currently 408 active cases in Manitoba, and provincial data shows 622 people have recovered from the virus.

Recent figures from Statistics Canada said Manitoba had recovered to 95 per cent of pre-pandemic employment levels by July.

That is the third-highest level among the provinces, but the unemployment rate is still well above where it was in the winter.

–With files from The Canadian Press

Brandon police respond to four incidents within days of tighter COVID-19 health restrictions
Brandon police respond to four incidents within days of tighter COVID-19 health restrictions

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.