Workers who lost their wages as a result of the devastation caused by post-tropical storm Fiona on Prince Edward Island are set to benefit from a new provincial government scheme.
The Emergency Jobs Initiative is designed to provide nonprofits, municipalities and private businesses with a 100 percent wage subsidy on wages up to $15 an hour for up to four weeks. If the program remains in need beyond the four-week period, employers can receive a wage subsidy of 75 percent for up to 14 weeks.
“This program is for those who may have lost their job in a seasonal business that is not continuing because of Hurricane Fiona,” PEI Premier Dennis King said during a Friday news conference. “We will be as flexible as possible towards all islanders who will benefit and get to work to rebuild our province.”
Potential applicants can access the program through the Department of Fisheries and Communities. Further information on the application process is expected during Friday.
Meanwhile, the province is working with the Canadian Red Cross to offer $250 in financial assistance to households in financial need.
“If you’re lucky enough to have insurance, some of your food loss or other impacts may be covered, but many islanders don’t have that,” King said. “This can be for things like uninsurable food losses, maybe it can help with gas for the generator or other basic needs.”
According to King, the Red Cross is working as quickly as possible to administer financial assistance via e-transfer, gift cards and, if necessary, checks.
The Prime Minister also announced that the province has set up an online form and email address in hopes of reducing call volume at Access PEI sites to help with debris removal. Requests will be reviewed, King said, with priority given to primary residences where trees and debris continue to cause safety concerns or where residents remain unable to return to their property.
“We know very well that there is damage to cottages and seasonal properties but we are trying to focus our efforts on primary residences first and deal with that the coming day,” he said.
King noted that as of 2 p.m. Friday, the province had received more than 700 online filings. There are also more than 2,000 calls for help.
Regarding power outages nearly a week into the storm’s onset, King noted that PEI has welcomed a record number of crews from across Canada to help customers restore power.
“We know some will be without power for another two to three days,” King said, adding that he had asked the Secretary of Defense for an additional week of additional military resources to support storm response.
The prime minister also pledged to keep warming centers open for as long as needed.
Crews have restored power to nearly 47,000 customers in Prince Edward Island, according to a Maritime Electric representative.
The percentage of islanders in power by region is as follows:
- 75 percent in the west
- 60 percent in the central area
- 42 percent in downtown Charlottetown
- 45 percent in the East
The Maritime Electric representative noted that crews are continuing to work to restore about 35,500 customers, with an estimated goal of restoring power to 6,500 customers by the end of Friday.
Education and Lifelong Learning Minister Natalie Jameson confirmed at Friday’s press conference that the province hopes to get as many students back into school as possible in the coming week.
Jameson noted that safety-priority civil engineers assessed damaged buildings and fire inspectors were dispatched to assess all schools for PEI. According to Jameson, contractors have already managed to seal the roofs and repair damage to most of the schools affected by Fiona.
On Friday morning, the PEI government launched a webpage listing all schools and their readiness to open Monday according to a three-category marking system: green, yellow, red.
Green schools can open on Monday, yellow schools are still being worked on but are nearing completion and could be ready next week, and schools listed in red cannot resume operations on Monday.
The website will be updated twice a day to give parents and guardians the most up-to-date information on return dates.
According to Jameson, PEI has identified 31 schools that are safe to open on Monday, 27 that are nearing completion and four schools that will not open on Monday.
Repairing one of the most damaged buildings, the Cardigan Consolidated School, could take a few weeks, Jameson says.
Parents were notified Thursday night that students from Cardigan Consolidated will be temporarily relocated to a dedicated wing at Montague Regional High School beginning Wednesday.
Other schools that have suffered major damage and will be delayed in reopening are École Évangéline and Queen Charlotte Intermediate.
“None of our schools are transitioning to distance learning at this time,” Jameson told reporters. “With the power outages and internet connectivity disruptions, virtual learning is not a viable option right now.”
Parents can rest assured that they will be informed immediately of any changes in bus services or timetables for the upcoming school week.
Jameson said student well-being teams are operational and respite care is being organized for families affected by prolonged closures or relocations. The province’s school feeding program will also be implemented on Monday at all operating schools.
“We don’t want anyone to go without food,” she said, noting that the reception centers will be open for food, water and electricity throughout the weekend.
The organization has received 4,350 individual requests from residents across the PEI, according to Bill Lawler of the Canadian Red Cross, with a total of nearly 35,000 Canadians asking for help since the storm began on Sept. 23.