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Long-awaited payments to essential workers in recognition of their efforts during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Manitoba will go out this week.

Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday that 78,442 applications under the federal-provincial risk recognition program have been approved. Each recipient will receive $1,377 (after taxes are deducted) from a pool of $120 million.

"Many working Manitobans were exposed to on-the-job risks they'd never experienced before the pandemic," Pallister said.

"I'm very proud of our front-line people and this is the way to show it," he said. "I know Manitobans support that."

Those eligible for the payment include workers in health care, social services, justice, security, transportation, food and beverage, hotels and essential retail. They had to have worked either part time or full time from March 20, the start of the provincial state of emergency, until May 29, and earned less than $12,500 during that time, excluding overtime pay.

The province received more than 90,000 applications from workers in a variety of sectors who'd been exposed to increased risks on the job during the pandemic, the premier said.

Pallister said some of the applicants didn't qualify because they were in jobs, such as manufacturing, where they did not have direct interaction with the public.

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, there were some concerns from both workers and the unions that represented them about the lack of clarity over when applications would be approved and when the money would be sent out.

Pallister said it took time for Finance Department officials to sift through the applications, and that it was important to "get it right."

"I would argue four weeks is not a long time to roll out a program of this complexity," he said.

The province announced the program in mid-May and rolled out the details on June 2. It later broadened the program's scope and eligibility and extended the deadline for applications to June 29 from June 18.

"We actually tripled the amount of applications roughly between the middle of June and right at the end of June," the premier said

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the initiative in April to top up the wages of low-income Canadians working in essential services during the pandemic. Ottawa put up $3 billion of the estimated $4 billion cost, with the provinces paying the rest. Program details were left with the provinces.

In Manitoba, Ottawa covered $90 million of the $120-million program, with the province contributing $30 million.

Of the recipients, 37,060 work in retail and lodging, 27,085 in health care, 9,325 in social services and 3,440 in transportation.

The gross payment to each worker in Manitoba is $1,530, but the province said it remitted a 10 per cent withholding tax to the Canada Revenue Agency to help recipients when they file their 2020 income tax returns.

Eligible recipients will be notified via email of the $1,337 direct deposit in their bank account this week.

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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