Funds to fight virus in meat plants might not move for months: feds
Details about who will have access to the federal funds and requirements are still being worked out
OTTAWA — Tens of millions of federal dollars aimed at helping food processors deal with a rash of COVID-19 outbreaks might not move until the end of September, and there are no details about what the requirements will be to qualify.
The $77.5-million Emergency Processing Fund Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week is intended to help food processors adapt to COVID-19 protocols, including gaining access to more protective equipment for workers.
It is also supposed to help upgrade and reopen shuttered meat facilities that have had to close after becoming infected by COVID-19.
On May 10 another Cargill meat-processing plant south of Montreal announced it will temporarily close its doors after at least 64 workers tested positive.
That is the second temporary closure of a Cargill plant in recent weeks. One in High River, Alta., closed after about 350 cases of the novel coronavirus were linked to it. The number eventually rose to 1,500, including nearly half the plant’s 2,000 workers. The plant has since re-opened.
Workers in meat-packing plants often work shoulder to shoulder slaughtering and butchering animals for food. Many of them also share living quarters and transportation to and from work.
Cargill Ltd., the Canadian subsidiary of an American-based multinational, has said it has installed transparent shields between workers’ stations where possible, supplied protective gear, and put on shuttle buses modified for safety so workers don’t have to carpool. A company representative didn’t immediately return a call from The Canadian Press May 11.
Details about who will have access to the federal funds to improve conditions at food plants, and what the requirements will be, are still being worked out, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
“The Emergency Processing Fund is being finalized and we will continue our consultations with provinces, territories and stakeholders as the parameters of the program are developed,” the federal department said in a statement in response to questions May 11.
As for when the money is expected to doled out, the department said that will happen “no later” than Sept. 30.