COVID pandemic: Province of Manitoba needs to actively help workers & renters

March 31, 2020

For Immediate Release (Winnipeg): A cross-country scan of provincial response to COVID by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) found Manitoba is the only province that has not provided any income support or sick leave provisions for workers and renters in the COVID-19 pandemic. Provincial action is needed to help low and moderate income Manitobans affected by COVID.

Lack of paid sick leave means workers placed in an impossible situation if or someone in their household is exposed to COVID – loose needed income or stay home. Workers essential to the supply chain are more likely to not have paid sick leave and more likely to be lower paid and racialized, finds a new study by CCPA.

Currently paid sick time is not legislated in the Manitoba Employment Standards Act. “COVID is demonstrating that paid sick leave is essential to public health: people should not have to go to work because they can’t afford to stay home when they are sick or must self-isolate if they or a household member is exposed to COVID” says Molly McCracken, CCPA Manitoba director.

Alberta is amending its employment standards to allow for paid job-protected leave during COVID. The Manitoba Federation of Labour asked the province for 14 days of paid job-protected leave on March 19th, 2020.

Income supports are needed in Manitoba if someone is sick, loses hours or work due to COVID economic impacts. An Angus Reid study released March 24th found 39% Manitoba households sampled had lost hours or work due to COVID. New federal benefits will help, but these will not flow until May at the earliest. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is not a lot of money: $2,000 a month when the average rent in Winnipeg is $1,200 plus Hydro and Water. Rent is Due Soon, a CCPA study released last week, found 24% of Manitoba renters don’t have more than a week’s savings and 42% don’t have more than a month’s savings.

Make Poverty History Manitoba and the Right to Housing Coalition are calling for immediate action on income supports as well.

Manitoba has put a pause on non-urgent eviction hearings. If a tenant can’t pay rent April 1st they can’t be evicted now. But without provincial income supports, deferred rents will amass debt renters will not be able to pay. These tenants could face evictions when the moratorium on evictions is lifted. Provincial action is needed with upfront grants for rent. Landlords making mortgage payments should be permitted to defer mortgage payments.

Manitoba must do its part to help Manitobans from falling into bankruptcy or poverty and to help people stay solvent for the recovery from COVID. Manitoba should:

  1. Sick leave: introduce an emergency amendment to the Employment Standards Act to allow for 14 days job-protected sick leave related to COVID.
  • Income support: provide emergency income and rent assistance to Manitoba tenants through Rent Assist or another easy to access emergency fund. Waive Hydro bills for those who cannot afford to pay due to COVID.

Background: What other provinces are doing in response to COVID

BC: $1,000 one-time payment anyone affected by COVID & $500/ month rent subsidy for four months

AB: $1,146 Emergency Isolation Support Grant to bridge people to federal benefits

SK: $900 self-isolation support program

ON:  payments of $200 – $250 per child for families to help cope with school closures and extra payments for seniors. Also offering off-peak Hydro rates.

QC: $573 per week for four weeks in Temporary Aid for Workers Program

NB: $900 one time payment for lost jobs due to COVID state of emergency

NS: every individual on social assistance will receive $50 to help and providing $1 million to food bank

PEI: $250 a week for workers who have kept jobs but at reduced hours and a fund for self employed with a maximum payment of $500 per week.

NLL: Compensation for private-sector employers to ensure employees do not go without pay during the pandemic

About: The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba office is a charitable research institute active in Manitoba since 1997.

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