Front-line caregivers will soon have access to a new benefits program announced by the province on Friday.

The $35 million Caregiver Wage Support Program will be available to more than 20,000 Manitobans currently working full-time or part-time on the front lines of the pandemic response. These include health-care aides, housekeeping staff, direct service workers and recreation workers. They provide direct care to vulnerable Manitobans at personal care homes or in disability services, child welfare services, homeless and family violence prevention shelters, or long-term care facilities.

“Every day, thousands of Manitoba workers make our province a better place by showing compassion, care and dedication as they support some of our most vulnerable citizens, such as seniors, people with disabilities, children in care and people at homeless shelters,” said Families Minister Heather Stefanson in a release.

“Their commitment has not wavered, despite the challenges and fears caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Caregiver Wage Support Program, our government is recognizing their ongoing commitment and the value of their critical work.”

Eligible employees will receive an hourly $5 top-up to their wages, based on the number of hours worked between Nov. 1, 2020, and Jan. 10, 2021. Two intake periods will close on Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 18, 2021. The program benefit will be paid directly to workers by the province in the week after each intake period closes. To qualify, workers must earn a regular wage of $25 per hour or less.

The Manitoba government has partnered with the federal government in cost-sharing the program, which recognizes low-income and middle-income workers who have been integral in supporting the province’s pandemic response. The federal government is providing $20 million, while Manitoba is contributing $15 million.