Ottawa will spend an additional $204 million targeted at child care, education and infrastructure to help Indigenous communities fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.

Trudeau said the government is spending $120 million to support early learning and child-care facilities in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities during the pandemic.

"Access to safe and culturally relevant early learning and child care is essential to the recovery of Indigenous communities from COVID-19," Trudeau said.

The new funding will support facilities in Indigenous communities in hiring additional staff and offering training for their teams.

The government is also spending $25 million to help Indigenous post-secondary institutions with increased costs related to the pandemic.

"This will help retain staff, adapt courses for online learning and implement public health and safety measures like additional handwashing stations and safe space barriers," Trudeau said.

He also announced $59 million in funding to improve infrastructure on First Nations to meet COVID-19 health and safety standards.

The new money is on top of more than $2.2 billion the federal government has already allocated to help Indigenous and northern communities get through the health crisis.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the announcement brings the government funding for Indigenous communities and organizations during COVID-19 to almost $2.5 billion.

He said the pandemic's impact has been particularly hard on children and young people.

"We must ensure that they get the necessary support to be able to learn and to thrive in a safe environment," he said.

Miller said there were 348 active COVID-19 cases among First Nations people living on reserves as of Thursday, adding that the total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 1,360.

Among other things, the government has committed $685 million for the Indigenous Communities Support Fund, which includes funding to address food insecurity, education and other support for children.

It is spending another $650 million to help Indigenous communities respond to the pandemic and for income support.

And it has devoted $122 million to help ensure a safe return to schools on reserves.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2020.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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