The federal Liberals have introduced legislation to provide $7.2 billion to cash-strapped provinces, territories and municipalities, with more than half going to immediate health-care needs.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says COVID-19 has placed extreme pressure on health-care systems across the country and Canadians need help urgently.

She says $4 billion, to flow through the Canada Health Transfer, will help ensure health systems do not buckle under the continued strain of the pandemic.

The bill also proposes $1 billion to support the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination programs.

In addition, the legislation would provide $2.2 billion for municipalities and First Nations communities through the federal gas-tax fund.

Freeland says the planned spending is a down payment on programs that will be more fully outlined in the federal budget next month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.

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