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Emergency wage subsidy and the long-term effect of grief; In The News for May 15

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, May 15th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 15 …

COVID-19 in Canada ….

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today an extension to the federal government’s 75 per cent emergency wage subsidy — just as businesses across the country are taking the first cautious steps towards reopening after a two-month, pandemic-induced shutdown.

He is also expected to announce significant financial support for thousands of medical researchers whose work is unrelated to the COVID-19 crisis.

The $73-billion wage subsidy program was initially slated to run until June 6.

Trudeau last week said it would be extended and today he’ll reveal for how long. The extension is expected to be for at least an extra month.

Under the program, the federal government is currently picking up the tab for 75 per cent of an eligible company’s payroll — up to a maximum of $847 per week per employee — from March 15 to June 6.

Eligible companies are those that saw revenues drop by 15 per cent in March or 30 per cent in April and May.

In other Canadian news …

WALKERTON, Ont. — As the May long weekend approached 20 years ago, E. coli in the drinking water of Walkerton, Ont., began making people in the town fall ill.

By the time the ordeal was over, seven would be dead and 2,300 others were sickened.

The town had planned to mark the anniversary this past week, but the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled those plans.

Residents say the service would have been a celebration of how far the town of 5,000 has come since those dark days.

But some worry the lessons learned about drinking-water safety are slowly being forgotten.

They point to the scores of similar places, including Indigenous communities, where water still isn’t safe to drink.

Also this …

Winnipeg native Gord Kudlak is being remembered as a jokester and musician with a lot of friends.

But Kudlak died alone of a heart attack in the intensive care unit at St. Boniface Hospital on Good Friday.

Not even his wife was allowed to comfort him at his bedside.

His brother, 71-year-old Norm Kudlak, lives alone and says there’s been no funeral or family support during the pandemic and he’s worried about his mental and physical well-being.

Psychologists, social workers and researchers are also concerned about the long-term impact of grief and have formed the Canadian Grief Alliance, which is asking the federal government for $100 million in community grief programs.

Health Canada says the Wellness Together Canada portal it recently launched can be used to help people work through the grief they’re experiencing after the loss of a loved one.

However, the portal does not include any specific modules on grief.

Shelly Core, head of the Canadian Virtual Hospice, which convened the alliance, says grief has become complex during the pandemic and many isolated people need to connect with a grief counsellor, even just over the phone.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Democratic-controlled House is pressing ahead with votes on another massive rescue bill that would pump almost $1 trillion to states and local governments, renew $1,200 cash payments for individuals, and extend a $600 weekly supplemental federal unemployment benefit.

Today’s measure — with a $3 trillion-plus price tag — promises to pass largely along party lines.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has loaded the 1,815-page measure with a slew of Democratic priorities, and it has earned a White House veto threat and a scathing assessment from top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called it “a totally unserious effort.”

COVID-19 in the sports world …

Canada’s men’s basketball team will still get a chance to qualify at home for an Olympic berth.

FIBA announced Thursday that four Olympic qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Games, including one in Victoria, will be held between June 29 and July 4, 2021.

Victoria was originally scheduled to hold a last-chance qualifying tournament June 23-28, but was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic that also pushed the 2020 Olympics back a year.

Canada, Greece and China will make up Group A in Victoria, while Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey will make up in Group B.

The tournament winner will lock down an Olympic berth.

Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia will host the other tournaments.

The new normal …

The Toronto Zoo will be a “drive-thru experience” when it gets the green light to open its gates to visitors.

Spokeswoman Amanda Chambers says the zoo’s 3.4-kilometre route goes above and beyond the Ontario government’s framework to reopen the province.

“The pre-booked driving route would allow guests to see the zoo’s animals from the comfort and safety of their own vehicle,” Chambers said.

She did not say whether the format would be temporary.

Pivoting to drive-thru is one of numerous options zoos and aquariums are contemplating as they figure out how to safely reopen now that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing across much of Canada.

“While it varies from facility to facility, there are some commonalities amongst them,” says Jim Facette, executive director of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums.

He says the organization’s members are looking at providing masks to visitors, having them walk along a predetermined route or having people pre-book timed visits online, limiting the number of guests and reducing the number of cash outlets.

ICYMI (In case you missed it)

A Toronto brewery pleading with consumers to bring back their empty bottles.

Steam Whistle Brewery says restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a decline in bottle returns, leaving it with a potential shortage just as sales are expected to ramp up for spring and summer.

Tim McLaughlin, the company’s vice-president of marketing, says there could be “rolling shortages” of Steam Whistle beer in the coming months unless it’s able to recover and reuse more empties.

He says the company used up an entire year’s worth of new bottles to make up for the lack of returns, and it’ll take months for a new order to be delivered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2020

The Canadian Press

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