$ 2 billion federal funding aims to help schools reopen safely as COVID-19 numbers rise

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Less than two weeks before most schools are ready to welcome students again for the fall term, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced more than $ 2 billion in funding to help provinces and the territories to reopen their schools and their economy in complete safety.The announcement comes as some provinces report an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The funding is intended to allow provinces and territories to work with local school boards to implement measures to protect students and staff from COVID-19. The money can be used to help adapt learning spaces, improve air ventilation, increase hygiene and hand hygiene, and purchase additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies. .

Trudeau also announced an additional $ 112 million for First Nations communities to ensure a safe return to school on reserves.

Although education falls under provincial jurisdiction, Trudeau said the money is only intended to supplement provincial resources and there are no strings attached to how it is spent.

“We respect the Constitution, but we had to find a way to help Canadians, and that’s what we did,” he said.

Funding will be provided in two installments; the first payment is due this fall and a second is due in early 2021.

Trudeau said the provinces will have to inform the federal government how they spent the money before the second disbursement.

No provincial jurisdiction intervention: PM

Trudeau said MPs had heard from many parents who were extremely worried about schools reopening. Premiers are “very happy” with the additional funding and the provinces will decide how they spend the money to support their existing plans, he added.

“What we achieved when we saw the level of anxiety and concern that parents across the country still had, even with these plans in place, we realized that we could give provinces even more resources. Some of it might go ahead right away, others of it might be able to help if there is a second wave later in the fall, ”he said. declared.

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks about safe schools funds

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said half of the $ 2 billion given to provinces and territories will flow now and the other half in December, when provinces and territories tell the federal government what worked. 0:33

“We know Canadians need these kinds of things to get their provinces to act and giving them that money to keep our children safe is one way the federal government can be there to help in an area of ​​provincial jurisdiction. . ”

Most students have been learning from home since the COVID-19 outbreak closed schools and businesses in mid-March.

Trudeau said getting children back to school safely is key to restarting the economy because it allows parents to return to work without worrying about the health of their children.

Trudeau said that as a parent and former teacher, he knew firsthand the importance of school for the social development and mental well-being of children.

“Our children need to be safe in the classroom. It’s not negotiable, ”he said. “No parent should lose sleep because they have to go back to work, but it is not clear whether schools are properly prepared. ”

Funding is allocated based on the number of children aged four to 18 in each province and territory, with a base amount of $ 2 million for each jurisdiction.

Funding based on student population

Here’s a breakdown of the responsibilities:

  • Alberta: $ 262.8 million
  • British Columbia: $ 242.4 million
  • Manitoba: $ 85.4 million
  • New Brunswick: $ 39.8 million
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: $ 26.2 million
  • Northwest Territories: $ 4.9 million
  • Nova Scotia: $ 47.9 million
  • Nunavut: $ 5.8 million
  • Ontario: $ 763.3 million
  • Prince Edward Island: $ 10.4 million
  • Quebec: $ 432.2 million
  • Saskatchewan: $ 74.9 million
  • Yukon: $ 4.2 million

Principal Jeff Cressman stands in a classroom at Elijah Smith Elementary School in Whitehorse. (Laura Howells / CBC)

While most schools are slated to reopen after Labor Day, Yukon students have already resumed their classroom work.

Plastic shower curtains hang between some desks, red arrows line the hallway floors to direct student movements, and posters remind students to maintain physical distance and to wash their hands. “Sick rooms” are also in place to isolate students who may be showing symptoms.

Today Ontario Premier Doug Ford praised the funding.

“The Prime Minister, when he spoke to me on Friday, the first thing that came out of his mouth was, ‘Doug, I understand it’s not my jurisdiction, but I just want to help.’ And we are grateful for that and I just want to thank the Prime Minister, ”said Ford.

The Prime Minister added that the federal government has not imposed any conditions on the funding and that his government will spend the money prudently.

Watch: Ontario Premier Doug Ford dismisses criticism, thanks Trudeau:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford had nothing but good things to say about his province’s share of federal funds to establish safe schools. 0:43

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio criticized Trudeau’s timing.

“The fact that Justin Trudeau only spoke about this money to the provinces a few days ago shows that he is more interested in putting on a show than in working with the provinces to help students return to school safely.” , she said in a statement.

“With the resumption of classes in less than two weeks, the provincial back-to-school plans are already well advanced. Justin Trudeau was wrong or was slow to act throughout this pandemic, and his failures have cost Canadians. ”

WATCH: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on safe schools plan

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls on the Liberal government to give money not only to schools but also to child care centers. 1:28

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said federal funds should support smaller classrooms.

“There is a real need to see the dollars that are tied to safer schools, and in particular what health care experts are saying and what school experts are saying: the size of classrooms,” a- he declared. “We need smaller classrooms. “

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce welcomed today’s announcement, saying it will help working mothers return to work.

“Our members have said repeatedly that the biggest barrier to fuller participation of women in business is access to reliable and affordable child care and safe and secure back-to-school policies. full time across the country.

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