New Brunswick

Librarians, other provincial staff, to help administer worker support program

About 40 provincial government staff members, including librarians, have been 'redeployed' to help the Red Cross implement New Brunswick's $900 emergency income benefit.

40 staff members 'redeployed' to implement $900 Workers Emergency Income Benefit

Provincial Red Cross director Bill Lawlor says the 40 government employees are assisting in Saint John and Fredericton. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

About 40 provincial government staff members, including librarians, have been 'redeployed' to help the Red Cross implement New Brunswick's $900 emergency income benefit.

The province has redeployed workers from the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour who held non-essential roles to assist the Red Cross in administering the program. 

The benefit, announced last week, is for workers or self-employed people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. To receive the benefit, people must file online or by phone.

That requires workers who can help people troubleshoot the application process and make sure people are who they say they are.

Premier Blaine Higgs said a new Red Cross website will be up and running on Monday at noon and it will allow people to apply for their $900 benefit. 1:24

Twenty staff members in Saint John are from libraries and other parts of the department, while 20 others from the department are in Fredericton.

"The redeployment is mandatory, but everyone is co-operating," Erika Jutras, a spokesperson for the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, said in an email.

Jutras said employees that are sick, in self-isolation, or with young children to care for won't be redeployed. 

Bill Lawlor, a provincial director with the Red Cross, said he expects there to be a significant level of interest for the program. He said the Red Cross has previously used outside support, including during floods. 

"It works out well in that these are nonessential workers who are not, at the present time, being engaged through their normal duties," Lawlor said. "So for them to be able to step up and provide supports will be great, a win-win for everyone."

Lawlor said the number of government employees could rise or fall depending on the needs of the program.

The benefit is meant to to bridge the gap between when a person lost their job or closed their business on or after March 15, to when the national benefit takes effect. The provincial benefit will end on April 30, 2020. 

The program's details can be found on the province's website.

The application period opened at noon Monday and can be done online or by calling the Red Cross toll free at 1-800-863-6582 seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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