Manitoba’s government announced a new program that will offer local businesses up to $50,000 to help pay the wages of newly hired or rehired employees who have either received a vaccine or who pledge to get one.
The Healthy Hire Manitoba program will cover 50 percent of wages for a maximum of 10 employees at each business, non-profit organization or registered charity, up to a maximum of $5,000 per employee. The province has set aside a total of $30 million for the program.
“As a government, we’re doing everything we can to encourage Manitobans to roll up their sleeves — not once, but twice,” Premier Brian Pallister said at a news conference announcing the program.
“It’s our goal that this new Healthy Hire Manitoba program will also assist in incentivizing employers to safely bring more employees back to work and encourage more Manitobans to get fully vaccinated.”
To qualify for the program, employees do not have to be fully vaccinated.
The program will cover pay periods for employees hired on or after June 10, with the last pay period ending Oct. 15.
Businesses and organizations already receiving wage supports from the province will be able to apply for the new program, however, wages for employees hired before June 10 won’t qualify for the subsidy.
“The businesses that have been able to stay fully open, there are a few, are not qualified for this program because of the fact that they haven’t been as affected by the restrictions,” Pallister said.
As the province begins to loosen COVID-19 pandemic restrictions — with capacity at most businesses increasing from 10 percent to 25 percent starting this Saturday — there is an opportunity for them to hire more employees back, he said.
More information on the program’s eligibility criteria will be released next week.
When asked which penalties might apply if an employee doesn’t follow through on their pledge to get a vaccine, Pallister said the program would operate on trust.
“We’re asking people to give their word so we’re hoping that they’re honest people. And I think in the vast, vast majority of cases, Manitobans are honest people,” he said.
“We’ve run our programs on that basis. We’ve got enough to do making sure that people follow the health orders right now, to be frank.”
Pallister said he hopes the program will encourage people in areas with low uptake to get the vaccine. As of Thursday, the province will have reached 72 percent of eligible people with at least one dose, and 31 percent with two doses.
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