HALIFAX -- Prince Edward Island government officials held a news conference on Thursday afternoon to make several announcements related to the province’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

Support for essential workers

A broadening of criteria related to federal government wage subsidy support will allow 17,000 essential workers in P.E.I. to receive a $1,000 payment.

“Over the past eight weeks our essential workers have been there for us. Now it’s time for us to provide support for them,” said P.E.I.’s Minister of Finance Darlene Compton.

On April 15, the federal government announced a wage top-up program which including $16.7 million for P.E.I. However, the province says, due to eligibility restrictions at the time, only 350 Islanders would have been eligible.

”After successfully lobbying the federal government, they approved our submission to broaden our criteria to include all essentials workers who have been working through the pandemic and make less than $3,000 per four week period," explains Compton.

Every employee who is deemed an essential worker and is making under $3,000 over a four-week period, will receive a one-time payment of $1,000 that will be paid through their employer. P.E.I. expects that will help 17,000 eligible essential workers.

Compton says employers will be able to apply for the program as soon as next week.

Golf courses, provincial parks and campgrounds to reopen

P.E.I. also announced that golf courses, provincial parks and campgrounds in the province will begin reopening within the next month. 

All of P.E.I.’s provincial parks will open on June 5 for the season. Playgrounds at provincial parks will remain closed until otherwise directed.

Provincial golf courses are also set to open in the next couple weeks. Brudenell River Golf Course and the Links at Crowbush will both open on May 15, and Dundarave Golf Course will open on May 22. All players must maintain physical distancing while at the course.

Provincial camp grounds are set to open on June 26, only for Islanders who have previously booked their seasonal camp site prior to March 31, 2020.

Support for small business

Matthew MacKay, P.E.I.’s Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism, and Culture, also announced a new COVID-19 workplace adaption assistance fund, which will cover 75 per cent of costs up to $2,000 for small businesses to purchase items including Plexiglass dividers, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations for their businesses.

Retailers are able to reopen as of May 22 according phase two of the province’s ‘Renew P.E.I. Together’ plan.

Support for fisheries

P.E.I.’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors are set to reopen soon, with the spring lobster fishery to open May 15, and commercial oyster and clam fisheries to open May 18.

“While it remains to be seen just how COVID-19 will change market conditions this year, we know there will be impacts from the slowdown and shutdown of restaurants both locally and worldwide,” said Jamie Fox, P.E.I.’s Minister of Fisheries and Communities. 

Fox announced two new programs aimed to provide support to P.E.I.’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

The P.E.I. fish emergency loan program is a secured, repayable loan to assist growers and fishers. This loan will allow operators to borrow up to $25,000 at a rate of 4 per cent. The Department of Fisheries and Communities will cover interest expense and defer principal for the first 18 months.

Interest relief program for loans that fishers and aquaculture operators may already have. This program is offering 12 months of interest relief for fish harvesters and aquaculture operators that can demonstrate a minimum of 30 per cent decrease in fish-related revenues for the 2020 season.

Fox also asked the public to not practise the tradition of going to their local wharf or harbour to cheer on their fishers on the opening day of the season.