Manitoba gives all seniors $200 to help with increased COVID-19 costs
Program will be extended to 225,000 seniors and cost $45 million, says Premier Brian Pallister
Manitoba is offering seniors a one-time, refundable $200 tax credit to offset COVID-19 pandemic costs, such as grocery deliveries and technology needed to stay connected with loved ones.
"Senior citizens across the province are facing increased financial hardships because they now have to pay extra for grocery deliveries, or purchasing and learning to use technology at home so they can communicate with their family members and the loved ones they miss," Premier Brian Pallister said at a news conference on Tuesday morning.
"This is just a payment to try to help offset some of the financial impacts this pandemic is having on their lives."
The new seniors economic recovery credit will cost the province about $45 million.
Manitoba Finance will mail advance payments this month to anyone over the age of 65 who filed a 2018 income tax return. The province estimates 225,000 people will be eligible. That includes Pallister, who turned 65 last July.
Those who do not receive a cheque, who have moved since filing their 2018 return and have not updated their addresses, or who are new to Manitoba will get a $200 credit when they file their 2020 income tax return.
The money will not be counted as taxable income and will not be used to claw back income-tested benefits to seniors, Pallister said.
WATCH | Providing seniors with support:
"As we slowly and carefully begin the process of reopening of our province's economy, this credit is putting $45 million directly into the hands of Manitobans," he said.
"Manitoba seniors deserve assistance during this pandemic. We can't relieve all of their stress during these difficult times, but we can make it more affordable for them."
Pallister also said he is is considering waiving drug dispensing fees for seniors as another way of reducing their financial burden, though he did not elaborate any further.
There were 282 cases of the novel coronavirus in Manitoba as of Tuesday afternoon, when health officials announced the seventh COVID-19-related death in the province — a man in his 70s from the province's Southern health region.
The coronavirus has infected millions worldwide and more than 60,000 Canadians.
Pallister was also asked Tuesday morning for reaction to the federal government's announcement earlier in the day about a $252-million aid package aimed at helping farmers and food processors.
Pallister said he didn't have details about specifics for Manitoba and was reluctant to comment.
"I can only say that support for the agricultural sector is needed — that it is a tremendously important sector to not just the Manitoba economy, but the Canadian economy," he said.
"And I know that we are all going to do better when farmers do better. "
The aid package is far short of the $2.6 billion requested by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called his announcement an "initial amount."
WATCH | Premier Pallister annouces help for seniors due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
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With files from Catharine Tunney and Janyce McGregor