VICTORIA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to announce $212 million for B.C. to help with workplace retraining as the economy lurches through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trudeau will release the funding nationally Friday morning as part of a federal aid package delivered through workforce development agreements with the provinces. The money is given to provinces to be administered through their own existing job programs that deliver employment counselling, retraining and other services.
Although the federal workforce funding is part of an annual program, it has shifted during the pandemic to become a centrepiece of the government’s efforts to help workers displaced by the economic curtailments and public health measures put in place to fight the virus.
B.C.’s unemployment rate reached a high of almost 11 per cent in July due to COVID-19 closures, but improved to almost eight per cent in October.
B.C.’s tourism and hospitality sector has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, with the industry saying revenues have collapsed, businesses have closed and many of the almost 160,000 people employed within the sector have lost their jobs. New travel restrictions put in place for Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health for the next two weeks is also expected to largely stunt any recovery for the sector.
Statistics Canada said jobs in the food-services industry has also been dramatically affected by the pandemic, with fewer patrons allowed in restaurants and early closure times for bars and pubs.
B.C. Premier John Horgan promised additional aid for the tourism sector in the form of grants and other financial assistance as part of the provincial economic recovery plan. The federal funds are also expected to target retraining and career assistance for people with disabilities, women, Indigenous people and older workers.