Ottawa announces $650M more for Indigenous needs during pandemic
“We are listening to Indigenous peoples,” says prime minister
The federal government announced today plans to spend an additional $650 million on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Indigenous communities—including $285 million for a rapid public health response.
The federal government said it would provide more support to Indigenous families and communities, with roughly $500 million earmarked right now for health and more than $80 million spread over five years to help build and support new shelters for Indigenous women and children.
“COVID-19 has further highlighted the unique challenges that already exist for Indigenous peoples and communities,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a news release following his daily news conference in Ottawa.
“We are listening to Indigenous peoples, and are working with them to ensure they have the support they need to get through this crisis.”
An On-Reserve Income Assistance program administered by First Nations will receive $270 million.
Most of the funding will go to First Nations, but, in the case of outbreaks of COVID-19, this money can be drawn upon to provide “surge capacity” and additional support for community-based services in Inuit, First Nations and Métis communities.
This would pay for additional help in communities not equipped to handle a COVID-19 outbreak, so they can hire nurses and obtain specialized supplies, said Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services, in an update on the announcement.
Some $44.8 million over five years will also help build 12 new shelters to protect and support Indigenous women and girls experiencing and fleeing violence.
This money will help pay for two shelters in the territories, to support Indigenous women and children.
“No one should have to stay in a place where they are unsafe. No one should have to choose between an unsafe place and being homeless,” Trudeau said in his daily news conference.
The government will also provide $40.8 million to support operational costs for these new shelters over the first five years, and $10.2 million annually afterwards.
This money is addition to the $305-million Indigenous Community Support Fund announced in March, and the $75 million provided on May 21 for communities and organizations working with Indigenous peoples living in urban areas and off reserve.