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Return to remote learning means scramble for some working Winnipeg parents

Click to play video: 'Reaction to remote learning' Reaction to remote learning
WATCH: "Why wasn't this announced Friday afternoon, and giving parents more time, giving educators more time?" Manitoba Association of Parent Councils' executive director Brenda Brazeau talks parent reaction and the return to remote learning. – May 12, 2021

As Manitoba enters its third COVID-19 lockdown, students across Winnipeg and Brandon returned remote learning once again Wednesday.

Students will be at home until at least the end of the month, and the move — aimed to help reduce Manitoba’s cases of the novel coronavirus — throws uncertainty at many parents who are already struggling with reduced options due to the pandemic.

Single mother Lucy, who gave 680 CJOB her first name only to shield her identity, said options are limited, and she’s not sure what she’ll do with her kids over the next few weeks.

She’s unsure whether she’ll be able to take a leave and still get paid, have to quit her job and collect assistance, or go to work and pay someone else to babysit?

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Manitoba announces public health measures for schools outside Winnipeg, Brandon – May 9, 2021

“If I had somebody to come look after my kids for me, I’d have to pay them by the hour. I’d rather stay home and look after my kids — it’s my responsibility as a mother — instead of working hard and then paying out the same money again … it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

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“It’s really stressful, it’s really frustrating. As a single mother if you pull through this pandemic, then you’re a hero.”

“You don’t know what your parents were going through when they had you until you have your own children — that’s when you know it’s really tough.”

Lucy said during the previous period of remote learning, she had to stop working and stay home with her kids while collecting CERB benefits.

“I didn’t have any source of income coming in — that was my only source of income at that time,” she said.

“You will sit home, you will spend all your savings on bills, groceries, and all that stuff …and if you don’t have any money coming in, what’s the point? You use all your resources.

“So at that time, when the government was giving money, it was really helpful for us.”

Read more: Parents, school divisions react to upcoming closure of Winnipeg, Brandon schools

Sandra Guevara-Holguin of the Community Unemployed Help Centre said Lucy’s situation is, unfortunately, not an uncommon one, but depending on her job, there are options.

“If she’s a front-line worker or considered an essential worker, the schools and daycares are offering to accept those children to go in person to the schools, so that child-care piece would be covered,” Guevara-Holguin told 680 CJOB.

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“As an employment insurance advocate for 13 years, I’m hesitant to advise people to quit their jobs — because while it’s true you can get EI if you quit a job, it’s not easy.”

Guevara-Holguin said if a parent like Lucy is not considered an essential worker and doesn’t have child-care arrangements, she can request a leave of absence from her work and apply for the Canada Response Caregiver Benefit through the Canada Revenue Agency.

“They’re going to look at whether or not the usual child-care arrangement — that in this case would be the school or the daycare — are not going to be available or shut down, so she has no other choice but to stay at home with her kids … but it all depends on the type of work she does.

“It is a huge problem, and that’s why the federal government created this special benefit, the caregiver benefit. Particularly in Manitoba, it will apply only if you’re not considered an essential worker.”

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