British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan says in a statement that while the majority of people are following rules to stop the spread of COVID-19, a small number are ignoring orders. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan says in a statement that while the majority of people are following rules to stop the spread of COVID-19, a small number are ignoring orders. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Premier’s office ‘confident’ temporary pandemic pay coming in October

B.C. Government Employees’ Union say workers have been waiting long enough to receive it

The B.C. government says temporary pandemic pay that was promised to essential workers in mid-May should be coming in October.

The stipend was promised to about 250,000 frontline workers for work done between March and July and some workers say they’re frustrated it still hasn’t arrived.

The premier’s office said Thursday ministries and funding agencies are implementing an invoicing and payment system for all employers so that they can receive and distribute the pay to their employees.

“The province recognizes the urgent need for these funds as well as the length of time it has taken to construct a payment system to distribute these funds,” the premier’s office said in a statement Thursday.

“We are confident that the funding will begin flowing through employers to employees in October.”

In announcing the pay as the pandemic took hold, Finance Minister Carole James said the stipend, which is cost-shared with the federal government, would recognize what workers were doing to help keep people healthy and communities running.

Front-line workers in health, social services and corrections are eligible for the $4-an-hour lump-sum payment for straight-hours worked between March 15 and July 4.

On Wednesday, the B.C. Government Employees’ Union said workers had been waiting long enough to receive it.

“Delays send the wrong message,” union president Stephanie Smith said in a statement.

While workers in every province have experienced some delay in getting the money, B.C. workers appear to be the only ones still waiting, Smith said.

Karen Dalton, a receptionist and former care aide at an assisted living facility in Nanaimo, said it was scary when the pandemic hit.

Staff feared for the residents and their families, and they were tired from working overtime, she said.

“We worked really, really hard to keep our residents safe. So, when we heard the pandemic pay was coming, it was a wonderful thing to be acknowledged for your hard work,” she said in an interview on Thursday.

Some workers had their pay slashed because new rules meant they could no longer take jobs at multiple sites, only one. So, the announcement of an additional $2,000 or so each was welcome.

“It was just a little relief that, oh my god I’m going to pay my MasterCard bill off, I’m going to be able to pay my rent,” Dalton said.

Dalton said staff have been questioning whether it will ever come.

Paul Finch, the union’s treasurer, said Thursday it would prefer to see the pay sooner and it wants to see eligibility expanded to the lowest-paid essential workers at liquor and cannabis stores, as well as those working in child-care.

“Throughout this entire crisis they’ve been on the frontlines at high risk and high exposure,” Finch said.

The Finance Ministry said in a statement that given the limited funding parameters of the cost-shared program, the province did its best to maximize the benefit to the most employees possible. B.C.’s approach closely matches what Ontario, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have done, it added.

Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager for the Hospital Employees’ Union, said earlier this week that the union was among those that advocated in April for an extra allowance recognizing the costs frontline workers were taking on.

Some workers lost access to public transit, for example, or had to spend more on work clothing as they couldn’t use laundry facilities and changed clothes more often to prevent transmission of the virus.

“It was a really, really challenging period,” she said.

Some staff working to set up the new payment system are also union members and Whiteside said she understands it’s a complicated process.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police say that a U-Haul truck abandoned in Cache Creek on Jan. 19 (pictured) was being used to transport equipment and supplies consistent with a fentanyl drug production operation. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Rental truck abandoned in Cache Creek believed to be connected with fentanyl drug production

Police seized high end equipment, chemicals, and several firearms

A COVID-19 outbreak has been identified at Unit 6 South at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, with four dozen people testing positive and one person dead as a result. (Photo credit: Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Flooding at Cache Creek park, July 2, 2020. The village is seeking $2.45 million in grant funding to safeguard its drinking water infrastructure against future flood events. (Photo credit: Tom Moe)
Cache Creek seeks $2.45 million for drinking water infrastructure

Grant funding would protect village’s drinking water infrastructure from flood threats

A new all-ages playground and a large canopy for outdoor gatherings (r) at Kumsheen K–12 school in Lytton. (Photo credit: School District No. 74)
Lytton students all under the same roof at newly-renovated school

Kumsheen Secondary has now been converted into a K–12 facility for 125 students

Craig Lebleau is the star of <em>Mud Mountain Haulers</em>, along with his family and Kamloops-based company Lebleau Brothers Haulers. (Photo credit: Submitted)
New TV show filmed in region shines a light on forest industry

Mud Mountain Haulers, featuring Lebeau Brothers Logging in Kamloops, no airing on Discovery Channel

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
B.C. couple who travelled to Yukon for COVID vaccine ineligible for 2nd dose until summer

The province is ensuring those eligible to receive the vaccine get the second shot within 42 days

(File)
Mask dispute in court leaves Vancouver cop with broken leg

Man allegedly refused to put on a mask and resisted arrest

(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

SAR crews worked late into the night Tuesday to rescue an injured snowboarder in North Vancouver. (Facebook/North Shore Rescue)
Complicated, dangerous rescue saves man in avalanche near Cypress Mountain

North Shore SAR team braves considerable conditions to reach injured snowboarder

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
UPDATE: No sign of small plane that went down in waters south of Vancouver Island

Searchers out on both sides of border between Victoria and Port Angeles

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. (Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK)
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during a news conference Thursday August 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Easing rules for parental benefits created inequities among parents, documents say

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office says the government will make any necessary changes

People walk along a pedestrianized zone of Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Monday, May 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Newly released statistics point to a major drop in police-recorded crime during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Crime down in first 8 months of pandemic, but mental health calls rise: StatCan

The agency says violent crimes such as assault dropped significantly

Most Read