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Government support for Canadians affected by COVID-19 hits all the right notes

Over the last several weeks, we have watched with horror as the COVID-19 virus has spread across the globe — a modern pandemic disrupting lives in every country and walk of life.

We’ve all seen the stories on social media sharing the wide range of public and private responses to this crisis. They’ve ranged from the noble and selfless stories of people running errands for their neighbours and donating equipment, food, and space to assist the overwhelmed healthcare workers all the way to the early stories of hoarding and price gouging. In other words, we’ve seen the human condition at work.

No matter what individual people have done during this pandemic, it is clear that our global healthcare systems have been overwhelmed. Governments of all stripes and in all places have taken measures to protect the people living within their borders, usually by asking — or requiring — anyone not contributing to an essential industry or service to avoid contact with other people. In an interconnected society such as ours, this had a predictable effect: the immediate slowing of our economy and the money moving within it. Non-essential spending for entertainment, eating out, and other social gatherings has dried up. Donations to non-health organizations has disappeared and fundraising events for non-profits and charities have stopped.

The pandemic crisis quickly expanded to become a health and economic crisis.

The last few days have seen a flurry of announcements from governments across the country, particularly the Governments of Canada and Ontario, with significant financial commitments to support the economy and the people who are forced to stay home during the pandemic.

Despite some hiccups in setting up the announcements at both levels of government, these measures have been generally applauded by the media and the opposition parties in Ottawa and Toronto. To be sure, opposition parties  have asked for more than each level of government has delivered, but they are supportive of the overall packages.

However, Government announcements are being updated on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis. There is a lot of information out there — and even more confusion as government ministers and the public service staff clarify how each policy announcement will be operationalized.

What we know right now is that both governments are working to get money moved out the door by early April. Different funding mechanisms will require different application and monitoring processes, which could result in bogging down non-profits and charities in even more paperwork — exactly the result we don’t want to see.

But for now, the announcements are positive and sending the right signals: the governments of Canada and Ontario are working to protect health & safety AND the economy.

As we work through this new world, we will all have to pay attention. In the coming days, Saint Agatha will develop links to all the government funding announcements and analysis on how the programs will work as they are released.