WINDSOR, ONT. -- After advising the city their financial support of the temporary foreign agri-food workers isolation and recovery centre would wrap up at the end of March, the federal government has reversed its decision and decided to continue funding the operation.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu made the announcement Tuesday via Zoom alongside Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk.

The new funding of $17.8 million will last an additional 12 months, to allow the city to operate a 125-room site.

“Protecting essential workers, especially those who are supporting Canada’s food chain and economy, is critical,” says Hajdu. “Today’s announcement of a safe, voluntary isolation site in Windsor-Essex means that we can help protect temporary foreign workers in the region from the spread of COVID-19 and variants of concern – something that will benefit everyone in these communities.”

In February 2021, a number of local politicians, including Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and Windsor West New Democrat MP Brian Masse called out the feds for “downloading” the associated costs of running the IRC to Windsor municipal taxpayers.

“The fact that we have to do this and crawl through glass to get to the other side is unconscionable for me,” said Dilkens on Feb. 24, noting the shift of responsibility would ultimately cost Windsor taxpayers $2 million in 2021 to operate a facility that is intended for agri-food workers based in Essex County who are here in Canada under a federal program.

“Make sure you’ve got your chequebook ready, sign over the funds that we need in order to operate the facility to protect the workers you’ve provided here,” Dilkens said at the time.

On Tuesday, Dilkens applauded the federal government for reversing course.

“We are grateful to the federal government and the Public Health Agency of Canada for standing with the City of Windsor as we continue to manage through this deadly pandemic,” Dilkens said. “Ensuring a safe space for migrant workers to isolate when required helps keep everyone in the City of Windsor and the County of Essex safe.”

As of February, the federal government, along with Red Cross Canada, had already spent $6.3 million operating the centre, which was used by 795 people since it was opened in June, 2020.

The government noted in a media release that the isolation and recovery centre is needed for individuals who live in congregate and often crowded settings, making it “unsafe or impossible to self-isolate, increasing the risk of community transmission.”

According to the government, “this funding will provide further federal support for the Isolation and Recovery Site, currently operated by the Canadian Red Cross through funding provided by Public Safety Canada.”

The temporary foreign agri-food worker isolation and recovery centre is at an undisclosed location at a hotel in the City of Windsor.

The grant announced Tuesday will carry through to 2022.