The Manitoba government is facing a shortage of money for people struggling to find enough to spend after the province closed its coffers last month.
The province closed the accounts of about half a million Manitobans because of the government’s budget deficit, but there’s no guarantee they will reopen.
It’s unclear how much money will be available to spend in the fall.
“We are in a situation where we are still not sure exactly what will happen,” said Mike Gormley, director of the province’s fiscal strategy office.
The shortfall of money means Manitoba will need to ask for more money from other sources in the coming weeks to help the province meet its needs, Gormly said.
“There’s no easy way to know how many of these funds are available to Manitobians,” he said.
“We’re just hoping that we can get them out of the system as soon as possible.”
He said the province is asking the Public Sector Employees Union (PSEU) to help it out by handing over some of the money it collected in the closing.
The Public Sector Union is asking for an additional $4 million to help pay for the province to pay some of its workers back, and to pay a portion of those wages back.
“This money is not going to come directly from the public sector.
It is going to be spent in a way that we are comfortable with and that is to make sure that Manitoban’s will not suffer as much as we are suffering,” Gormay said.
The PSEU also has $7 million in a trust fund that it plans to use to pay for basic needs like rent, food, utilities and clothing.
The union is calling on Manitobian employers to be prepared to contribute as well.
“If there are jobs that Manitos employees are working, then Manitob’s workers should be paid for those jobs,” the union said in a statement.
“It is imperative that Manitots need not only be able to work but also earn enough to support themselves and their families.”
There are also plans for the Public Services Employees Union to contribute a total of $7.6 million, and the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce and Industry to contribute $1.8 million.
There are other plans to help with the budget shortfall that aren’t currently on the table, including for the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation to contribute up to $1 million to cover some of Manitoba’s health care costs.
There’s also a separate plan for the Saskatchewan Party to contribute money to help fill in a gap that has resulted from the closure of its health care plan.
The provincial government has set aside $2.3 billion to cover the shortfall in the provincial budget.
The money is being spent to cover an estimated $1 billion in costs, Gomley said.
There is no word on when the government expects to see its money come out of its reserves, and that’s why Gormily said there’s not much certainty about when it will be released.
“I think it’s very hard to predict how much that will be because it’s always a process,” he added.
“Our expectation is that it will come out in the autumn.”
With files from CTV Winnipeg’s Chris Burdick