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Government provides support to Interior mill workers, families

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson announces help for laid off forest workers in September while his parliamentary secretary Ravi Kahlon, Mayor Lyn Hall, and Labour Minister Harry Bains look on. Funds have now been sent to communities.

Under fire for its handling of the forest industry crisis in the province, the provincial government announced Monday it has sent cash to some affected communities.

The provincial government is providing $875,000 to 11 Interior communities to help with delivery of transition services and supports to B.C. mill workers and their families who have been affected by permanent or indefinite mill closures or shift reductions.

“The challenges facing Interior forest communities are unprecedented, and that’s why we are getting these resources where they are most urgently needed,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, in a news release. “Funds from these community support grants are going directly to the local governments, as they have first-hand knowledge of what supports are most needed in their communities.”

Through the Community Support Grants Program (CSGP), Interior communities with permanent mill closures are eligible for $100,000; communities with indefinite mill closures are eligible for $75,000; and communities with permanent shift reductions are eligible for $50,000. Communities may use CSGP funding to provide transition and support services for affected forestry workers. The following communities are receiving community support grants:

* Clinton, Clearwater, Quesnel and Kelowna are each receiving $100,000;

* Fort St. James, Fort St. John, Mackenzie, 100 Mile House and Regional District of East Kootenay Area B (Jaffray) are each receiving $75,000;

* Regional District of Fraser Fort George Area C (Isle Pierre) and Merritt are each receiving $50,000.

Communities have identified a variety of support services and programs they will deliver to impacted mill workers and their families, including employment workshops and training, counselling services and support for food banks.

“Our government is working hard to make sure the supports are in place for contractors, workers and communities,” said Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “For me, this situation is very personal, having experienced first-hand the challenges families face when a local mill closes or reduces shifts. I understand the struggles many are facing in these communities.”

In September Victoria announced a $69 million aid package to deal with the forest sector downturn.

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