Pandemic pay: 78,000 workers qualify for aid

'It's important to make sure you're not sending out cheques then asking for them back'

Pandemic pay: 78,000 workers qualify for aid

After more than a month of waiting, over 78,000 frontline workers in Manitoba will finally receive their ‘pandemic pay’ from the Pallister government.

The Risk Recognition Program will reward Manitobans who reported for duty even at the height of the COVID-19 global health crisis, when economic and social activities were heavily restricted.

The provincial government is now preparing to deposit the cheques into the accounts of qualified workers, despite having taken four weeks to process tens of thousands of applications.

Read more: Pandemic pay: More frontliners stand to benefit from $1000 bonus

“It’s important to make sure you’re not sending out cheques and then asking for them back,” said Premier Brian Pallister. “You know we wanted to make sure because we are dividing it among the eligible recipients that we had a pretty accurate number.”

Pallister argued the month-long process was “not a long time” given the complexity of the program.

After vetting 90,000 applicants, a total of 78,442 workers have been chosen to receive a slice of the $120m aid. The reward will be divided among:

  • 37,000+ retail workers
  • 27,000+ healthcare workers
  • 9,300+ social service workers
  • 3,400+ transportation workers

Each beneficiary will receive a one-time payment of $1,530. With a 10% withholding tax deducted, the amount credited via direct deposit will be $1,377.

“Many working Manitobans were exposed to on-the-job risks they’d never experienced prior to the pandemic and we can’t thank them enough for the roles they played in supporting all Manitobans through this difficult time,” Pallister said.

Read more: Trudeau calls for better pay for 'heroes' of the pandemic

“We sincerely hope that this is money that you can use for your purposes, and we hope that you consider that with this extra money, you might be able to spend some to support a local business or to support the local economy,” he said.

However, an estimated 10% of the applicants by late June were found to be ineligible for various reasons. “Some of the employers took it upon themselves to apply hundreds of their workers who were outside the parameters,” Pallister said.

Workers in the manufacturing industry, for instance, were excluded based on the program criteria.

On the other hand, those who qualified for the pandemic pay must not have earned more than $12,500 between March 20 and May 29, and must have worked a minimum of 200 cumulative hours in full-time or part-time employment during the coverage period, the provincial government said.

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