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Helping Alberta manage COVID-19

Helping Alberta manage COVID-19

The provincial government is working on an employment placement plan

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Alberta’s provincial government is working on a way to help those who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak find new employment in the meantime.

“We’re developing a jobs matching program right now,” Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen told Farms.com. “With so many people unemployed, if you were washing dishes but are no longer able to do that, well, washing potatoes isn’t much different.”

In Alberta, 50 per cent of households reported work or job loss because of COVID-19, an Angus Reid survey said.

In addition, the province’s economy could shrink by 5.5. per cent while the unemployment rate goes up to 9.5 per cent by the end of May, the TD Economics forecast says.

Alberta is also investing more money into the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC).

AFSC will receive almost $75 million to help with insurance claims and income support payments.

The government is looking at other measures as well, Dreeshen said.

“We are looking for our lending clients to offer interest-only payments, payment-free amortization and looking into extensions on insurance deadlines,” he said.

The provincial government is also asking Ottawa to do more to help the ag industry.

By declaring the agriculture and agri-food supply chain as an essential service, farmers can have peace of mind knowing they can access the goods they need to continue farming.

“We hope to hear back from the federal government soon,” Dreeshen said. “We want to make sure that the supply chain maintains so, when there’s parts that need to be ordered in the spring, farmers have confidence that dealerships are open to get those parts.”

The essential service declaration would be in addition to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Farm Credit Canada (FCC) announcement.

On March 23, Trudeau increased FCC’s lending capacity by $5 billion to help the sector during the outbreak.

The investment is welcome news for the industry, Dreeshen said.

“We don’t know how the breakdown of how much Alberta’s ag industry will get, but it’s obviously great news to have more access to capital in the agricultural sector,” he said.

As of March 30, Alberta has 661 cases of COVID-19 with three deaths.

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