The Prince Albert Grand Council is applauding an additional $650 million from the Trudeau government given to First Nations to help them deal with a potential second wave of COVID-19.

About $285 million of the funding is earmarked for rapid health responses including supplies, medical care and facilities for social distancing.

Another $270 million will go toward the on-reserve income assistance program to help families with essential living expenses during COVID-19.

The remaining close to $45 million over five years is for the construction of new women’s shelters to address violence against Indigenous females.

PAGC Chief Brian Hardlotte said any financial assistance from the federal government for Indigenous communities during the pandemic is much appreciated.

He said dealing with the pandemic is expensive for First Nations and in particular making sure checkpoints are properly staffed to limit access in and out of communities is costly.

“The biggest thing I hear in our communities is the control of their nations, meaning the roadblocks that they have in our communities and monitoring the travel to their respective communities,” Hardlotte said. “They need funding for that and for a lot of First Nations that’s running out.”

Hardlotte said another challenge is ensuring all essential workers have proper access to personal protective equipment.

“We also need to purchase PPEs for those people, like I mentioned, working on the roadblocks and monitoring. Those workers, they need PPEs too to keep themselves safe. And other essential workers in in the communities that have to visit elders for that support and assistance.”

The Prince Albert Grand Council serves 12 First Nations in northern Saskatchewan with a population of about 43,000.

(PHOTO: Prince Albert Grand Council Chief Brian Hardlotte. File photo.)