Opposition calls for more financial support for Islanders, businesses as restrictions tighten

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Trish Altass, Opposition critic for economic growth, tourism and culture, says it's good to see the federal government introduce pandemic benefits, but the provincial government should do the same.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Trish Altass, Opposition critic for economic growth, tourism and culture, says it's good to see the federal government introduce pandemic benefits, but the provincial government should do the same. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

P.E.I.'s Official Opposition is calling on the government to provide more financial supports to Islanders and businesses struggling throughout the holidays because of increasingly tight COVID-19 restrictions.

The Green Party of P.E.I. is asking the provincial government to provide income supports to workers whose hours have been reduced due to new restrictions and those who have to stay home and take care of children while schools move to online learning until at least Jan. 10.

The Opposition is also calling for better access to rapid test kits.

Trish Altass, Opposition critic for economic growth, tourism and culture, said it's good to see the federal government expanding pandemic financial supports to individuals and businesses, but the provincial government should do the same.

"The amount of money … that some workers will be able to access is still very low and will be putting many workers in a challenging position this holiday season," Altass said.

As per current COVID-19 restrictions in P.E.I., capacity in public spaces such as restaurants, retailers, gyms and theatres is limited to 50 per cent.

At 8 a.m. Friday, the province brought in temporary social gathering restrictions. Organized gatherings such as worship services, wedding and funeral ceremonies, concerts and shows will be capped at 50 people. Additionally, wedding, funeral receptions, wakes and visitations will no longer be permitted.

Government monitoring situation

In a statement to CBC News, the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture said it is monitoring how COVID-19 restrictions and the recent changes to federal pandemic benefits are affecting Islanders. Besides federal benefit programs, Islanders can also apply to the provincial COVID-19 Special Leave Fund, the department said.

"As we have from the beginning, we will launch the necessary programs to fill gaps to support Islanders during these uncertain times," the statement said.

The government should also bring in targeted income support for P.E.I. students and Islanders struggling with food insecurity, the Opposition said.

'Strain on our food banks'

"Right now, you know, when we look at the strain on our food banks, we know that there has been additional pressure in more people needing support," said Altass.

Altass said the government could reintroduce the gift card program it implemented this past summer. Islanders were given gift cards to redeem at local restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Looking forward, Altass said while temporary supports are important, the province should also create more permanent financial aid, such as guaranteed basic income and legislating paid sick days.

"We have to learn that while we are coping and managing with the immediate crises … we also need to plan for the future to strengthen our safety net so that workers and businesses will be able to access supports in a timely and efficient manner," she said.

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