Manitoba premier says cheques will be sent out to low-income disabled persons

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is sending out another batch of $200 cheques to help people deal with the economic consequences of COVID-19.

The money is to go to more than 23,000 people who live with disabilities and are on social assistance. It aims to help cover extra costs such as prescription drugs and grocery deliveries.

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"Manitobans living with disabilities may be facing additional costs in adjusting to the realities of daily life during this public health emergency, and, for many of them, it is extremely difficult to cover additional costs," Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday.

The one-time payments are to be mailed out in early June, just a few weeks after similar $200 cheques were sent to every senior in the province, regardless of income.

Those cheques were accompanied by a letter signed by Pallister, who indicated the new payments will also have his name attached.

"Who else would sign it?" Pallister said.

"Those who are receiving the payment deserve it, and I think that the premier of the province owes it to let people know that he believes that."

Make Poverty History, a Winnipeg-based poverty rights group, said the one-time payment is not enough.

"We know everyone on (social assistance) and living in poverty is suffering, and everybody needs support, and that can't just be a one-time cheque," group chairman Michael Barkman wrote in an email.

The Opposition New Democrats also called for higher payments and said Pallister is politicizing the program by attaching letters with his signature.

"I'd offer my best efforts to craft a letter of my own to include if they wanted to give me that honour," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

Pallister said the cheques are not a political move, because the next election isn't scheduled until 2023.

"I would say it's a pretty weak case to say we're doing it for politics when the next election is years away."

Manitoba health officials announced there were no new COVID-19 cases Tuesday for the fourth straight day. With most of the 292 people infected having recovered, the number of active cases was down to 16. Seven people have died since the pandemic began.

Pallister offered his support for a proposed national program that would ensure workers received 10 paid sick days during the pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the program would require talks with the provinces.

Pallister said Manitoba is willing to put up money, although he provided no specifics.

"We don't need to discourage people from staying home when they're sick. We need to encourage them to do that ... and during this pandemic, it's critical that we do everything we can to help people do the right thing."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2020

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