The Alberta government said if its 2023 budget is passed, it would expand funding to help those escaping war in Ukraine.
The UCP government said it would provide up to $27.3 million to help Ukrainians access settlement, language, housing and financial supports.
Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
Since that time, about 21,600 Ukrainians have come to Alberta, said Rajan Sawhney, minister of trade, immigration and multiculturalism.
Newcomer support agencies say they’re busier now than they were last year. Alberta expects more Ukrainians to arrive in the province in the coming months.
“The need for help is outpacing the funds available,” said Catholic Social Services CEO Troy Davies.
“The Ukrainian community and settlement agencies have told us that there is a critical need for funding to help evacuees when they arrive in Alberta,” Sawhney said.
“As a dedicated supporter of the Ukrainian people, the Alberta government would provide much-needed funding to ensure Ukrainian evacuees have language and settlement services when they arrive in Alberta.”
The provincial budget would see $7 million (from Alberta’s ministry of trade, immigration and multiculturalism) over three years for continuous settlement and language services.
It would also direct $20.3 million for housing and financial supports (from the ministry of seniors, community and social services).
“Ukraine is grateful for the government of Alberta’s constant and effective support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in our struggle against unjustified and unprovoked Russian aggression,” said Oleksandr Danyleiko, consul general of Ukraine in Edmonton.
“We are also grateful for the support of Ukrainians who come to the province to escape the horrors of the Russian war, mostly women with children. Many of them have no relatives or friends here and are also very limited in means of living.”
As of Feb. 24, Ukrainian evacuees can apply for the Alberta Rent Supplement Program. Previous requirements around citizenship, refugee or immigration status have been removed, making Ukrainians eligible for the same social housing and rent supplement programs as other Albertans.
The 2023 budget would see that rent program supplemented with $9.9 million additional funds, bringing the total to $16.7 million.
“By providing more access to supports such as the Rental Assistance Benefit, we are paving a path for success in our province,” said Jeremy Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services.
“It is important for those leaving Ukraine to know that our government stands with them in solidarity against the tragic war in their home country, and we will show that by supporting those who find refuge in Alberta.”
Budget 2023 would also provide $3.6 million to support the continuation of the Ukrainian Evacuee Emergency Financial Support and Benefits program, which began on March 28, 2022.
It would be extended until January 2024 and the six-month maximum duration of benefits would be removed. Funding would be provided based on need, the province said, not time.
Alberta’s budget is set to be delivered Feb. 28.
Several vigils were held across Alberta Friday to mark the somber anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Edmonton city council took several moments at around noon to stand with Ukraine and Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian Canadian community in Edmonton is organizing a gathering at the Alberta legislature at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
A candlelight vigil and short program will be held under the Vegreville Pysanka at 6 p.m.