On Saturday April 25th, I was thrilled to learn that the Ontario government was taking a big step to support front-line heroes in the fight against COVID-19 by creating a wage enhancement and monthly bonus program.
First thing on that Monday morning I sent a companywide message praising our government for this initiative
The $4 increase and bonus were great steps in recognition of the tireless efforts of all the nurses, personal support workers, and attendant caregivers who are working every day to keep those around them safe.
I was thrilled to finally be able to share some great news with my staff after so many communications I’d sent about sweeping schedule changes, enhanced protective equipment guidelines, and policy updates as our whole team worked overtime to keep pace with the new world of community care brought on by COVID-19.
Now, sadly, a few short weeks later I’ve learned that the program excludes many nurses and PSWs on my staff.
What was never mentioned in the press release in April was that not all PSWs and nurses would be included
Weeks after the announcement, the government published a list of eligible workers and workplaces including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and retirement homes (including many for-profit privately owned facilities).
But conspicuously absent from that list are any home and community PSWs and nurses working for employers not directly receiving public funds.
Pandemic Pay does not include home care workers who are providing essential services if their paychecks do not come directly from government funding.
As an employer whose nurses and PSWs provide government-funded as well as family-funded care the absurdity of this distinction is infuriating.
On one hand a large (and arbitrary) group of my employees will be eligible for the increase and bonus and of course will receive it.
On the other hand, an equally large and equally deserving group of my employees will not be eligible and might not receive anything.
In many cases employees will be eligible for some clients they see, but not for others. Often times those clients could live a few doors down from each other.
This makes absolutely no sense.
In addition, excluding these frontline workers puts families and employers in an impossible position
Because of this exclusion families and employers are now faced with choosing between three impossible alternatives.
The first option is to have companies like mine pay the increase directly without any government support. But this is completely impossible because the wage increase is so big (as it should be) that it is more than enough to put a company like mine out of business in a matter of weeks.
Then there is option two, which is for employers and families to try to find a way to have their nurses and PSWs included in the program despite the restriction. Unfortunately this also isn’t possible because the program has no application process and so no way to advocate for those who are left out.
That brings us finally to option three which is for families receiving the care to try and find a way to fund at least part of the program themselves. However, asking families to shoulder this enormous financial burden in addition to the strain they are already facing is outrageous.
All other government programs started during COVID-19 have been very inclusive, why is Pandemic Pay different?
Government loans (and loan forgiveness) are available to all small businesses, no matter what line of business they are in.
The CERB is available to everyone who has lost their jobs, no matter what job they were doing.
Wage subsidies are available to all businesses with a significant drop in revenue. No distinction is made about what kind of business it is.
Why is Pandemic Pay available only to some Frontline Workers?
Please help us by spreading the word!
- Share this article so we can create some change and recognize all the incredible heroes who are currently left out!
- Visit the Ontario.ca/pandemicpay page and click on ‘please contact us’ to send an email directly to the Government asking that all PSWs and nurses be included!
- Visit the ONA.org site (Ontario Nurses Association) and use their form to email Doug Ford and your MPP directly!