The Manitoba government is announcing new measures in the Manitoba Protection Plan to provide extra support and relief to homeowners and businesses, and to enhance health preparedness for new medical equipment and shelter space in the fight against COVID-19, Premier Brian Pallister announced today.
“Our government’s number one priority during this global pandemic is keeping Manitobans safe and ensuring our health-care system is there for us and our loved ones,” said Pallister. “We must protect our most valuable service – our health-care system – and protect our most vulnerable people, our senior citizens, our homeless, those faced with threats of violence and those who are facing new financial challenges.”
Faster Health Equipment Procurement
The government is investing more than $100 million to accelerate the pace at which Manitoba is procuring essential medical supplies and equipment, hotel capacity and other critical needs to help prepare for COVID-19.
“Manitobans have always risen to the challenge and what we’ve seen so far during this pandemic is no exception,” said Pallister. “This $100-million investment will allow us to support made-in-Manitoba products and solutions from local businesses to quickly help in our collective efforts to fight COVID-19 and protect Manitobans in the weeks and months ahead.”
Manitoba manufacturers or businesses that are prepared to rapidly scale up production or re-tool manufacturing lines to develop products made in Manitoba to help in the fight against COVID-19 can go to the portal at www.manitoba.ca/covid19, and then visit the business and workplace page.
The province is also issuing a call to businesses that have a stock of personal protective equipment. If the equipment is not being used due to closures and physical distancing, they can also reach out by visiting the portal at www.manitoba.ca/covid19.
In addition, Manitoba businesses can donate unused personal protective equipment supplies in the original packaging, clean and in useable condition. For more info, visit: https://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/supply-donations/.
Cash Flow Tax Relief
Today’s measures will provide immediate relief to Manitobans facing financial challenges by deferring provincial fees and charges, the premier noted.
As part of the Manitoba Protection Plan, the province is providing the following protections for the next six months until Oct. 1:
• instructing Manitoba Hydro, Centra Gas and Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) to not charge interest or penalties in the event that Manitobans are unable to pay at this time;
• instructing MPI to relax ordinary practices on policy renewals and collections;
• instructing Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries not to charge interest on receivables from restaurants, bars and specialty wine stores;
• supporting Workers Compensation Board (WCB) to do the same and asking WCB to extend relief from penalties for late payments;
• directing Manitoba Hydro and Centra Gas to not disconnect customers during these times; and
• working with municipal partners to ensure municipalities do not charge interest on provincial education taxes and school division fees and the province is encouraging municipalities to do the same with respect to their own taxes and will start discussions to support implementation.
The government is also deferring provincial income tax and corporate income tax filing deadlines and payments to coincide with the current revised federal deferral of income tax to Aug. 31 and has indicated it would be willing to extend these deferrals until Oct. 1, should the federal government agree, the premier added.
The new measures are in addition to the recently announced two-month deferral for small businesses that remit up to $10,000 in Manitoba payroll tax or $10,000 in sales tax. This will result in $80 million in deferred remittance to the province.
Pallister also announced plans to help make insurance more affordable for Manitobans. While the province has no ability to allow for deferrals of payments or the waiver of interest charges and penalties, Manitoba is taking steps to make home and business property insurance more affordable to Manitobans by accelerating the removal of $75 million of annual PST from residential and business properties, effective July 1.
This will save residential property owners an estimated $38 million per year and business property owners $37 million a year.
Expanded Shelter Capacity
The Manitoba government will add more than 140 new shelter beds to support people affected by homelessness and allow for social distancing protocols as part of the province’s broader Manitoba Protection Plan response to COVID-19, the premier announced.
“While many of us have the capacity to shelter at home, the reality is some of us do not,” said Pallister. “Through our Manitoba Protection Plan, our government will ensure people who don’t have a stable home have a place to stay safe and healthy as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic together.”
Up to $1.2 million will be invested at several locations in Winnipeg to:
• repurpose a vacant Manitoba Housing building on Sargent Avenue to create 31 new beds;
• add 35 beds provided by the Salvation Army at its Martha Street location;
• expand Siloam Mission’s capacity by 50 beds; and
• move individuals currently using the Salvation Army’s SonRise Village to alternate locations, making its 26 beds available for new clients.
The beds at the Sargent Avenue location will be managed by Main Street Project, which is partnering with other shelters to co-ordinate access among their clients. This location will open today and others will become available as soon as possible.
The provincial building on Sargent Avenue may also be used as self-isolation units for homeless individuals who need it.
The premier noted the province is also looking into additional options to support homeless and vulnerable people outside of Winnipeg as part of the province’s Manitoba Protection Plan response to COVID-19.
“Our government remains committed to looking at every possible way to help all Manitobans through these uncertain times, by providing financial relief and support needed on the front line as we face this global pandemic together.”
The province continues to rely on the recommendations of the chief provincial public health officer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and encourages all Manitobans to engage in social distancing protocols.