Ottawa unveils $16.5m in new support for seniors, youths

What happened: Ottawa is offering more funding to youths and seniors

Why it matters: B.C. also recently announced new support for older residents who find themselves in vulnerable situations amid the pandemic

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The federal government is rolling out $16.5 million in new funding to support young people and seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Sunday (March 29) $7.5 million would go to Kids Help Phone, a service offering counselling, referral and support to young people via phone and text.

The new funding would supporting the hiring of more counsellors and trained volunteers.

The remaining $9 million has been earmarked for the New Horizons for Seniors program, which will see the United Way non-profit offering health check-ups and grocery delivery to older Canadians.

B.C. is also bolstering support for seniors, with $50 million in funding announced Thursday to expand the province’s 211 phone line.

The phone line will allow seniors to find someone to help them shop for groceries, fill prescriptions and other tasks.

“Our focus right away has been figuring out how to ensure that we can replace sources of income and revenue that have been lost because of COVID-19 for so many Canadians across the country who were relying on their paycheques to get through week to week,” Trudeau said when asked if Ottawa was also considering boosting the Canada Pension Plan to help seniors.

“But we recognize that seniors are facing greater vulnerabilities and we are looking carefully at measures to be able to support them through this tough time as well.”

The federal government is expected to release more details Monday on measures meant to curb the economic effects of the pandemic.

Ottawa revealed Friday it was boosting its previously announced wage subsidy from 10% to 75% in a bid to help small businesses keep more workers on the payroll.

Those changes are being backdated to March 15, but questions remain regarding the scope of the program and which businesses qualify.

The federal government is also introducing the Canada Emergency Business Account, which allows banks to offer $40,000 loans guaranteed by government to eligible businesses that will come interest-free for the first year.

Under certain conditions, $10,000 of the loan will be forgivable.

Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada will be receiving $12.5 billion in additional funding to help small businesses with cash flow, while the federal government said it’s deferring GST and HST payments as well as duties and taxes owed on imports until June.

The federal government said it would be the equivalent to $30 billion in interest-free loans for businesses.

Meanwhile, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Bonnie Henry will provide an update Monday on COVID-19’s spread throughout the province.

On Saturday the provincial government revealed B.C. had 92 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 884.

There has been one new death, bringing the total to 17, and one additional long-term health case facility has had an infection.

That's 12 long-term care homes now that have had at least one infection of either a resident or staff member.

As of Saturday, 81 patients with COVID-19 are in hospital and 52 in intensive care.

Henry said the spike since Friday is not unexpected and is partly a reflection of increased testing.

B.C. has been doing more than 3,000 tests per day.

Also on Monday, new travel restrictions go into effect that deny boardings on domestic flights and trains to passengers exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

It will be up to airlines and rail companies to enforce Transport Canada’s new regulations.

But public officials are urging Canadians to stay home and avoid any non-essential travel, especially if they are sick.

—With files from Nelson Bennett and Glen Korstrom

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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