By Jensen, Randy on March 21, 2020.
Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf says the provincial government is doing everything it can under unprecedented circumstances during this COVID-19 crisis to keep Albertans safe and to ensure that people can pay their bills.
“The extraordinary circumstance, I believe, is the reason we have to have an extraordinary response,” he says. “So that our population in general, and inclusive of nearly everyone, knows there is a way through this, and they don’t have to face it alone.”
The government announced earlier this week it would be giving out up to two one-time payments of $573 for each worker laid off due to the impact of the COVID-19 as they wait for the Employment Insurance benefits to kick in from the federal government.
Neudorf said the Alberta government is also preparing assistance packages to help small business owners and contractors who do not have access to EI.
“I am led to believe that both the federal package and the provincial package have accommodations for those who are self-employed or under contract,” he says. “Our website at alberta.ca would be able to help a lot of people find out that information more precisely for their situation É So people can check based on their specific circumstances what they are covered for, and what they are not.”
Neudorf said the government is also taking other measures such as bringing in legislation to temporarily suspend the legal requirement for businesses to provide two weeks notice to employees before giving out layoff notices if they are shutting down or scaling back due to COVID-19.
When asked if there would be additional emergency financial support for municipalities having to take on extra cost burdens associated with their local response to the virus, Neudorf says the provincial government has established a clear set of priorities.
“I believe that will be discussed in due course,” he confirms. “I think there is a very clear priority (set). First is personal health, second is economic support for those who have become unemployed or are small business owners, or have been asked to close their businesses. Then we will go to municipalities. The priority is very clear to start on the individual level, and make sure each and every Albertan as much as possible at least has the resources they need to have food, shelter and water, and have their basic needs met. And then grow out from there as the priorities demand.”
Alberta has not yet followed the example of Ontario and Quebec in putting out a call for extra medical help to deal with the crisis from recently retired nurses, doctors and other medically trained individuals – over 10,000 answered the call in those provinces – but Neudorf says the Alberta government could follow suit as the situation evolves.
“I know that has been discussed, and will likely happen,” he says. “Nothing official has gone out yet. Stories like that (in Ontario and Quebec) make us all exceptionally proud to be Canadian, to be Albertan, and to realize people truly care. What doctors and nurses and those on the front lines are doing, they are not doing this for income – they are doing this out of compassion and care for their fellow man.”
Neudorf stresses the importance of working together as a community to help in any way we can to confront this outbreak and come out the other side still strong.
“We will manage this crisis, and we will come through it,” Neudorf says. “And, in fact, I believe many people will see a better future because of the response to care for their friend, their neighbour, and even someone they don’t know, and that will set an example for all of us.”
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