More than 220 Manitoba businesses look to tap into financial support for vaccinated employees, province says

For Peggy Glassco, it’s important to let people know all her staff at the Gymkyds Gymnastics Centre in Winnipeg have had two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

In fact, the news was posted on the gym’s social media pages.

“We’re with kids [age] one to 12 — that’s our clientele,” said Glassco. There are as yet no vaccines approved for children under 12.

“I think it makes parents feel more comfortable sending them here, knowing that we are all vaccinated, and I think as coaches we all feel more comfortable knowing that all our co-workers are vaccinated.” 

She said she’s had positive feedback from parents about the vaccination status of her staff.

“We’ve had a lot of people just come out and say, ‘We’re so happy that you’ve made that decision.'”

For Glassco, that’s good news. So is the province’s Healthy Hire Manitoba program. 

The Manitoba government announced last month employers can apply for up to $50,000 in financial support through the program to help pay the wages of up to 10 newly hired, or re-hired, employees.

However those employees must “attest they have been vaccinated [or] intend to be vaccinated,” unless they are unable to be vaccinated, according to the province.

The province’s website says employers who are eligible for the program will receive a grant equal to 50 per cent of wages, with a $5,000 maximum per employee. 

Glassco filled out an application through the program earlier this week.

“It definitely helps ’cause, you know, we’ve got a hole to dig out of, for sure,” she said.  

Her gym has been in operation for 21 years, but she’s had to navigate public health restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s had to lay off and rehire staff a number of times

The gym was able to reopen for summer camps earlier this month. 

She said she laid off roughly 25 employees in May, when the province tightened restrictions during the third wave of COVID-19 infections in Manitoba. She recently hired most of them back, to start working July 5.   

Bombers also tapping into program

Glassco isn’t the only one hoping to take advantage of the grant. 

In an email, a spokesperson said as of Tuesday, the province had received applications for the subsidy program from more than 220 businesses, looking to support more than 1,145 positions. 

“The department is processing applications to confirm eligibility. Once approved, eligible businesses are able to apply for an advanced payment of up to $750 per employee” for up to 10 employees, the spokesperson said.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are also among the employers looking to tap into the program. 

Bombers spokesperson Darren Cameron said in an email this week the football club believes it is eligible for the support, but hasn’t yet applied.

“We are focused on getting IG Field ready to open with 100 per cent capacity for our home opener on Aug. 5,” said Cameron. “We have hired many staff in the past month and will be applying for the maximum support, which is 10 employees.”

The Blue Bombers and Tiger-Cats will open the 2021 CFL season on Aug. 5 in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg football team said it intends to apply for support under the province’s Healthy Hire subsidy program. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

True North Sports and Entertainment — which owns the Winnipeg Jets and the downtown Canada Life Centre — said it was premature to comment on whether it will apply for the Healthy Hire Manitoba program. 

However, the organization said in a statement that because its operations involve public gatherings, with large groups indoors for extended periods of time, it is implementing measures to protect staff and patrons, “including the expectation that employees will be fully vaccinated.”

Recent job postings for the organization say “providing confirmation of full vaccine status by Aug. 31, 2021 is a condition of employment,” unless a request for accommodation per the province’s Human Rights Code has been made.

As for Glassco, she said at the start of the pandemic, she never would have thought indoor sport would be impacted the way it has been. 

She described the last 16 months as a roller-coaster and said financial support from governments has helped both her and her staff. 

“I wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for that.”

For now, Glassco said it looks like this is shaping up to be her busiest summer yet.

“It feels really good and I just hope we don’t go backwards at this point,” she said.

“I hope everyone does what they need to do so that we just keep going forward and we can all get back to somewhat normal.”  

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