Pandemic-Related Government Aid Continues to Expand
On April 14th, it was announced that $150 million for better ventilation in public buildings to help reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19.
While air quality through increased ventilation is not on the first line of defence against COVID-19, it is an additional precaution that has been recommended by experts as helpful in the fight against COVID-19 as it will dilute the number of viral particles in the air. It is important to reduce contact to include only those in your household and maintain physical distancing from everyone else, as well as proper use of masks and hand sanitation in addition to increased airflow.
The recent investment will be used to assess, monitor, and improve indoor air quality and ventilation. Funding will be available to governments at all levels and can be considered a ‘top-up’ to Canada’s COVID-19 Resilience stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
In addition, $30 million of these funds will be contributed to funding community-based solutions in Indigenous communities to help address the unique challenges they face. This funding will complement funding that Indigenous communities can access through the ICIP portion of the Ventilation Improvement Fund.
“Everyone deserves to feel confident that the air they are breathing in is safe,” says Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, “This investment will support Indigenous communities and their leadership to implement community-based solutions to respond to the spread of COVID-19. From coast-to-coast-to-coast, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are working hard to keep their citizens and Elders safe – we thank them for their leadership as we continue to work together to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The COVID-19 Resilience stream was announced in August of last year and aimed to serve as a more direct channel to provinces and territories to support efforts to protect jobs and uphold communities across Canada. The budget of this program is $3 billion and has options to fund both short- and long-term initiatives. Under this system, projects can access funding to cover up to 80% of costs in provinces and up to 100% in territories or Indigenous-led efforts.
Projects could include repair or replacement of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units, increasing maintenance of existing systems to ensure optimized operation, or other interventions that bring in more outdoor air, or result in cleaner air, such as the installation of operable windows, or portable air filtration units. Eligible projects will improve ventilation in public infrastructure assets that:
- Serve populations with conditions that are at increased risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19 (e.g. long term care homes);
- With high occupancies (e.g. schools, congregate living housing);
- Where activities take place that are at higher risk of infectious aerosol particle generation (e.g. recreation or sports centers);
- Remain open through lockdown, or are the last to close when restrictions are increased, in order to continue to provide services (e.g. Libraries, buildings used as emergency shelters);
- Have been identified by public health authorities as higher risk for outbreaks based on local conditions.
Ventilation improvement projects will also benefit from the streamlined application and faster approvals under the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream.
This program has been extended by two years in order for all territories and provinces to benefit from the increased federal cost-sharing, allowing a broader range of vital infrastructure projects as long as they can start construction by September 2023. Additionally, given the urgency of the crisis, projects were able to retroactively access funding up to December 2020 in order to expand aid offered by newly initiated projects decreasing risk as well as time barriers regarding funding securement.
“No matter where Canadians are, they need to be able to breathe clean air. Good indoor ventilation is an important element that, when layered with personal preventative measures, can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Today’s investment is just one step that we are taking to keep Canadians safe and healthy—through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health.
There have been several ventilation projects already funded under the Resilience stream in health facilities, shelters, and emergency service buildings. Infrastructure Canada is working to improve the efficiency of fund distribution to maximize the benefit to the health of Canadians.
This funding also complements existing federal programs that fund building ventilation upgrades such as Health Canada’s Safe Long-term Care Fund, Employment and Social Development Canada’s Preventing Outbreaks in Shelters Initiative, the Safe Return to Class Fund and Indigenous Services Canada’s Safe Return to First Nations Schools on Reserve.