80 Island workers helped out of EI black hole

Close to half the expected applicants have already received money under the new P.E.I. Seasonal Workers Skills Initiative.

'We are really pleased with the uptake'

Ottawa has provided money to employers to hire seasonal staff early, filling in the gap they faced after employment insurance benefits ran out. (David Ryder/Bloomberg)

Close to half the expected applicants have already received money under the new P.E.I. Seasonal Workers Skills Initiative. 

The new fund was implemented by Ottawa in late April to help people whose employment insurance (EI) runs out before their next contract begins — putting them in what's known as the EI black hole. 

Funding is channeled to employers to hire staff earlier than they had planned — Ottawa provides employers 90 per cent of the workers' wages, and the workers spend four days a week in the business and one day in essential skills training.

Eighty Island workers have already received additional work under the program, with another seven pending approval.

"We are really pleased with the uptake," said Lori Johnston, the executive director of Workplace Learning P.E.I., in an email to CBC. 

Ottawa estimated about 200 people would be eligible to apply on P.E.I. 

There is no deadline for Islanders to apply. 

There is a fund of $1.1 million available this year for P.E.I. Nationally, the figure is $10 million for this year. Ottawa has promised money for three years starting this year, but how the money is spent could change.

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With files from Laura Chapin