Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to get $289M from Ottawa for COVID-19 issues

The Nova Scotia government has reached an agreement with Ottawa on how much it will get for COVID-19 restart efforts. The province announced Wednesday how that money will be spent.

Health-care system, municipalities and child-care centres some of the areas to get money

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil during a media conference in August. Wednesday the province announced it has reached an agreement with Ottawa on how much it will get for COVID-19 restart efforts. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government has reached an agreement with Ottawa on how much it will get for COVID-19 restart efforts and announced Wednesday how that money will be spent.

The province will get $289.5 million as part of the federal-provincial safe restart agreement, a $19-billion fund from Ottawa that was announced in July.

In the coming weeks, it will be distributed as follows:

  • $77.3 million for more testing and contact tracking, mobile testing, more border control and monitoring and upgraded data management.
     
  • $77.3 million to focus on the province's supply of personal protective equipment.
     
  • $67.5 million to help municipalities cope with reduced transit and tax revenue, as well as increased costs as a result of COVID-19 infection prevention efforts.
     
  • $19.1 million for measures to control and prevent infections among vulnerable populations, including in long-term care facilities.
     
  • $18 million to support the health-care system with issues related to a potential second wave of COVID-19.
     
  • $17.4 million to help child-care centres with necessary personal protective equipment and cleaning requirements.
     
  • $12.9 million to expand access to mental health and addictions services.

Municipalities' ask fulfilled

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood, who is also president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, said Wednesday's announcement is good news for municipalities that were otherwise looking at prohibitive tax increases to try to make ends meet.

"On average it was a 7.1 per cent tax increase that we were looking at if this money hadn't come through," she said.

A survey of the province's 49 municipalities produced by the federation gave a clear picture of what was required to offset losses and Mood said the money announced Wednesday is slightly more than the total shown in the survey. What's particularly noteworthy is that the money is not a loan, said Mood.

"It's money in response to unrecoverable losses," she said. "Things like transit, deed transfer tax, recreation losses."

Demand on child-care centres increase

Jillian Farris, who operates A Tiny Lab for Early Learning in Halifax, said finding ways to adhere to the new public health guidelines has been a challenge and required bringing on more staff.

Her site has already hired one additional full-time worker and is looking to hire more substitute teachers. Those costs will range anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 per year. Getting help means offsetting the increases and maintaining service quality, she said.

"That cost is fairly significant," said Farris.

Her site expects to be back to 100 per cent capacity by the fall and Farris said the sector would also benefit from a funding program that helps sites hire more people to lower ratios.

The money from Ottawa via the safe restart agreement is in addition to $40 million previously announced from Ottawa for Nova Scotia to put toward the public school system and its ability to cope with the pandemic.

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With files from Jack Julian

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