New funding assists immigrants

Left, Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen presents funds to Regional Connections Executive Director Steve Reynolds, Settlement worker Joyce Bergen and Language Program Director Rhoda Keck. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

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New provincial funding will help organizations like Regional Connections help immigrants sooner.
The province of Manitoba announced up to $3.1 million in support for newcomers, funds that came from a successful effort to reduce backlog in the system.
Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen was in Winkler, April 12 to deliver a cheque for $98,000 to Regional Connections, and he said the funds resulted from a fee the province put in place for applicants under the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program.
The fees, $500 for skilled workers and $2,500 for a business, were meant to address a backlog in the system.
“We were one of the only jurisdictions, if not the only one in Canada who did not have any application fee attached for a potential newcomer,” he said. “So we would flood our system with people who would go through the channels and at the end say… we’re going to Alberta, or we’re going to Nebraska.”
The backlog was cleared, and the province found themselves with additional revenues.
“We are reinvesting that amount on a go-forward basis to 17 immigration services across Manitoba, including this one,” he said.
Last year was the 20th for the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program and Friesen said they had a record number of nominations, nominees with jobs and nominees in rural locations.
Regional Connections Executive Director Steve Reynolds said the funds will help fill a gap that existed in their service.
“It will have a significant impact on clients for sure,” he said. “People will be able to access services who couldn’t before.”
Reynolds said the funding supplied by the federal government applies to permanent residents, forcing them to wait until they had permanent residence status.
That meant a new family often couldn’t access simple things like English instruction until they’d been here for up to two years.
“Your family would be here, you’d have a house, your kids are in school and you still wait a couple years before you can go to an English class or get service,” he said. “Now they will be able to come as soon as they arrive.”
Program funding
Regional Connections also received $111,303 in program funding for Employment Assistance Services.
Friesen said the funds support assistance of 230 people annually, a number that Regional Connections exceeded, with over 300 helped last year.
“These services support job search, anybody who needs to work on their resume or job applications,” Reynolds said. “We maintain job boards, do interview skills, credentials recognition support, all kinds of stuff both for newcomers and this being provincially funded, is for everybody.
This service is also offered out of the Morden and Altona offices and is for anybody from the community who may be getting a first job or looking for another job.