Cost of COVID-19: Sask. budget includes $700M in pandemic supports, economic stimulus
REGINA -- The Sask Party Government is putting a lot of the blame for a $2.4-billion deficit on the COVID-19 pandemic, while the NDP feels the Government has been slow to react to the changes presented by the pandemic.
The provincial government is preparing to spend more than $700-million to address the challenges from pandemic.
"We face the pandemic together and now we are reopening the province together and we will rebuild and recover together," Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said.
Much of the $700 million earmarked for pandemic spending is going towards stimulating the economy. More than $200-million of which is coming from the Federal Government.
The first year of the government’s $2-billion stimulus package will account for over half of the funds at $375.5-million.
The government has also set up a $200-million health and safety contingency fund to cover any costs coming from a second wave of the pandemic.
"We have conservatism built in, we have a contingency built in, so that we should, at the very least, be able to contain our expense side," Harpauer said. "We’re going to be very mindful and work with stakeholders, work with the industries to see where the economic recovery will come."
Health care spending is projected to be $6.18-billion, which is a record high for the province. It includes $118-million for hospital and testing equipment, personal protective equipment and operations costs to deal with the pandemic.
NDP leader Ryan Meili says the Sask Party’s response to the pandemic has been to reactionary, highlighting previous cuts to public health and a lack of pandemic planning.
"We’ve been very lucky that hasn’t resulted in the number of cases we’ve seen in other parts of the world, but that’s despite Scott Moe, not because of him," Meili said.
Meili added the NDP wants to see the government focus more on helping Saskatchewan people during the pandemic through increased minimum wage and a "people first" approach.
The provincial government is attributing $1.9-billion of the $3-billion added to the public debt to COVID-19.
The government has allocated $56 million for the Temporary Wage Supplement that helps support workers helping Saskatchewan’s vulnerable populations.
The Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment, providing support for small to medium-sized businesses, will received $50 million in funding.
Another $50 million in emergency pandemic support will be going towards First Nations and Metis organizations and community-based organizations.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program will also be receiving $13 million to provide forgivable loans to commercial property owners.
The province is also expecting to spend $12 million on supports for livestock producers, enhancements to the corrections and justice systems, and the Self-Isolation Support Program.
The province is expecting to spend $171 million on capital funding for third parties, including $150 million for the Municipal Economic Enhancement Program.
The province also announced $150 million in spending on the Accelerated Site Closure Program for the reclamation of inactive oil and gas wells and facilities.
In preparation for any further pandemic spending, including a second wave of COVID-19, a $200 million health and public safety contingency has been provided.
In addition to the provinces original capital plan, another $205 million will be directed to schools hospitals and highways.
The government is also committing an estimating $675 million in deferrals, including PST remittance deferrals, utility payment deferrals, Education Property Tax deferrals and the student loan repayment moratorium.