The federal government is adjusting a $33-billion COVID-19 infrastructure program to help Canadian communities respond to the global pandemic.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced a new COVID-19 “resilience” stream during a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, carving out $3.3 billion for pandemic-related projects that would not be covered under previous rules.
McKenna said the government recognizes that, with the health and economic challenges presented by COVID-19, Canadians need supports to protect their health, improve quality of life and create jobs.
Changes to the program will make it easier for projects — such as making schools and long-term care facilities safer — to qualify for funding, McKenna said. New rules will also fund projects such as creating new bike and walking lanes, so people can get out to exercise and enjoy nature.
The money will come from existing funds.
The changes are about “[making] sure we get better outcomes in a time of COVID and show that we can adapt,” McKenna said.
According to a news release, the program offers a larger federal cost share for projects, up to 80 per cent for provinces, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations in provinces, and 100 per cent for remote, northern and territorial projects.
The application process will also be streamlined to get funds flowing faster.
McKenna said the government hopes to fund “shovel-ready” projects that can start up quickly.