The North is getting $41M in 'Safe Restart' funding — here's how premiers said they'd spend it
Agreement focuses on 7 key areas of concern, from universal sick leave to increased COVID-19 testing
The federal government will distribute nearly $41 million to Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to help plug funding gaps in services stressed by COVID-19.
The money comes as part of a $19-billion "Safe Restart Agreement" between provinces, territories and the federal government. The plan provides extra funding to help increase child care and health system capacity, cover municipalities' lost revenues, and build up a stockpile of personal protective equipment.
Though the agreement was reached weeks ago, Liberal MP Michael McLeod announced the Northwest Territories' portion Monday in the latest of several federal funding announcements preceding a vote on this week's throne speech that could topple the Liberal government.
"Canada continues to provide assistance as we address the COVID-19 pandemic," a press release quotes McLeod as saying.
According to the agreement, the N.W.T. is slated to receive $14.5 million, Yukon will receive $13.4 million, and Nunavut $12.9 million.
As part of the agreement, premiers were required to write a letter outlining how they would distribute the funds provided through the program to tackle seven key areas of concern. Here's what they said.
N.W.T.: Testing, long-term care, homeless supports
In the N.W.T., Premier Caroline Cochrane said funding for testing and contact tracing, amounting to $3.5 million in the N.W.T., would be partly put to use ramping up testing capacity until the territory could process "225 tests per day." The territory's current testing regime can accommodate just 240 tests per week.
$1.5 million for increasing health care system capacity will be spent in part on the COVID-19 information line, hotels for homeless individuals in self-isolation, and on improving long-term care, including through the "purchases of iPads for virtual visits with family."
The letter notes the territory is already spending "nearly $1 million … per month" on four isolation hubs for new entrants to the territory.
It says only that it will "look to supplement" existing child care funding with $2.7 million allocated through the program.
Yukon: Addictions support, rural child care, paid sick leave
In Yukon, which is receiving roughly $13.4 million through the program, $3.3 million for contact tracing and testing will support "efforts to maintain" the territory's testing capacity. Currently, the letter reads, that capacity is 60 tests a day, with the ability to "surge" to 160 if necessary.
$1.3 million allocated for health system capacity will be partly spent on improving substance abuse and mental health counselling services.
The letter, signed by Premier Sandy Silver, also specifies that $2.7 million in child care funding allocated through the program will help keep two rural child care centres open through the pandemic.
Paid sick leave, one of the priorities identified by the program, is already guaranteed in the Yukon by an emergency regulation introduced by the territory in the early days of the pandemic. But the letter says the territory may "wind down" that program depending on the nature of an unspecified "national temporary income support program" in the coming weeks.
Nunavut: Mental health support, isolation hubs, remote learning
The letter from Nunavut, which is slated to receive nearly $13 million, emphasized the territory's unique needs in contributing to national targets for COVID-19 testing.
Citing the territory's "vast geography" and reliance on southern labs, Premier Joe Savikataaq writes that "setting a specific testing target does not add value and can exacerbate existing challenges."
Nonetheless, $3.1 million allocated for testing will be spent partly on renovating a lab in Rankin Inlet and expanding the territory's in-house testing capacity.
Just over $2 million for expanding health care capacity and assisting vulnerable populations will go toward mental health and addictions treatment.
Savikataaq's letter says with schools reopened, $2.6 million allocated for child care will be spent in part on technology and an online platform for home learning.
The letter also highlights the high cost of southern isolation hubs put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the territory, which Savikataaq says has cost about $20 million so far.
The North is receiving about two-tenths of a percent of the $19-billion program. That's about $12 million less than it would receive on a purely per capita basis.
- An earlier version of this story stated that Nunavut would receive $18.9 million in funding. In fact, Nunavut is receiving $12.9 million.Oct 09, 2020 2:17 PM CT