COVID-19 Updates: Taking steps to return to normal.
As we continue to move forward into 2022, we look for ways to improve Community and Social Services programs and supports. While a lot of people are eager to say ‘good riddance’ to 2021, I want to take a moment to celebrate what my ministry has accomplished over the past year, to enhance supports for Alberta’s most vulnerable.
Looking back at 2020 and 2021, the first thing most of us think of is COVID-19. In 2021, Alberta’s government announced additional investments and supports for the people Community and Social Services serves, including an additional $21.5 million to extend COVID-related supports and homeless response until March 2022. This funding also helps women’s shelter operators offer more support through community outreach and virtual service delivery. In addition, in November 2021, I appointed a group of experts and community leaders to the Coordinated Community Response to Homelessness Task Force. The members of this task force will be identifying innovative ways to deal with issues surrounding homelessness. I look forward to the recommendations they will be providing in June 2022.
Community and Social Services is committed to supporting the recovery and growth of our partners in the civil society sector, and support them to better address social problems for vulnerable Albertans. We know civil society is often better equipped to directly support the changing needs of Albertans, which is why our ministry launched the Civil Society Fund. This fund is providing $20 million over 3 years to civil society organizations to expand civil society’s capacity to address social problems, including to support community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, 21 civil society organizations received $7 million from the first round of funding. The application for the second intake of this funding program took place in fall 2021 and will benefit several other civil society organizations in 2022.
People with disabilities offer a unique perspective to all environments, and our ministry supports people with disabilities to have equal opportunities and achieve their goals, leading a successful life as independently as possible. In 2021, Alberta’s government opened up more opportunities for people with disabilities to achieve post-secondary education and find fulfilling employment.
Through the inclusive post-secondary education program, and as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, Alberta’s government is honouring its $2-million platform commitment to help more students with developmental disabilities pursue post-secondary education. This investment gives more students with developmental disabilities in Alberta the opportunity to advance their personal development and build knowledge and skills to prepare for the workforce. In addition, Alberta’s government also added an incentive for employers to hire people with disabilities through the Alberta Jobs Now program. Launched in 2021, the program offers grants to Alberta companies to cover 25% of an employee’s salary for a 52-week period. When hiring a person with a disability, employers can receive a grant of up to $37,500. This program helps reduce the costs of hiring and training unemployed Albertans, encouraging more employers to create jobs.
The Wellness Resiliency and Partnership (WRaP) 2.0: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Coaching Partnership project launched officially this fall with a $1 million investment per year for 5 years. WRaP 2.0 provides educational supports for teachers who work with students impacted by FASD which will help students with FASD across the province reach their full potential in the classroom. Helping educators develop the skills and tools to support students with FASD and their classmates helps build learning environments where all students are engaged, have academic success and enhanced social, emotional and physical well-being.
As minister of Community and Social Services, I am proud of what our ministry and Alberta’s government has accomplished in the past year. We could not and cannot do it without the support of so many organizations, advocates and passionate people across the province.