BC will cover the cost of quarantining seasonal farm workers arriving in BC this spring.
“The province will fund hotel and food-service costs during the 14-day self-isolation period,” the province announced in an information bulletin issued April 14.
The announcement follows a federal announcement this week that employers in the agrifood sector would receive $1,500 per foreign worker to cover such costs. Under an agreement industry struck with Ottawa on March 20 following the closure of borders to foreign nationals on March 18 in response to COVID-19, all incoming foreign workers must isolate for 14 days on arrival in Canada.
A total of $50 million was earmarked for the funding, or enough to cover about 33,000 workers. This is slightly more than half the 60,000 temporary workers the industry employs each year. Marie-Claude Bibeau told media that the funds will be disbursed to employers at a time yet to be determined.
“The mechanism is not completely defined yet,” she said this week.
The funding reflects the number of workers expected to arrive between April and June, and will be increased if borders remain closed to foreign nationals beyond that date.
The province says its funding will cover the costs for about 1,000 workers scheduled to arrive this month. Under the federal program, employers would have received $1.5 million for these workers.
The province did not respond to a request for details regarding how much it was allocating to the program, or whether the initiative would work in tandem with federal funding.
The announcements come as several Okanagan communities express concern about domestic workers arriving in the region looking for work. Many are from Quebec, which has stringent regulations on the movement of people during the current pandemic.
“Such travel should be confined to trips for medical reasons and work when teleworking is not possible,” Quebec regulations state. “In order to protect the must vulnerable populations, checkpoints will be established to limit travel into and out of certain territories.”
Other province require new arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days, even if arriving from within Canada.
BC has a far more liberal regime, and has so far rejected the implementation of checkpoints or travel restrictions within the province.