COVID-19: Cross country update (March 18, 2020)

18 mars 2020

( Disponible en anglais seulement )

Federal

The Government of Canada announced a new set of economic measures to help stabilize the economy:  $27 billion in direct support will be given to Canadian workers and businesses.  Highlights include:

Support for Canadians

1. Temporary Income Support for Workers and Parents

  • As of March 15, 2020, the one-week waiting period will be waived for those in imposed quarantine claiming Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.
  • The requirement to produce a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits will be waived.
  • The Emergency Care Benefit was introduced, which will be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency, with applications available in April 2020, and will provide up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks to support:
  • workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 or who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits; and
  • parents with children who require supervision due to school closures and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI.

2. Longer-Term Income Support for Workers

  • The Emergency Support Benefit was introduced to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
  • Making it easier to implement EI Work Sharing Programs to provide EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours by extending the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements, and streamlining the application process.

3. Income Support for Individuals who Need it Most

  • For low and modest income families, the Goods and Services Tax credit will double the maximum annual amount for the 2019-20 benefit year.
  • For families with children, the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year will be increased by $300 per child.
  • $305 million will be provided to address the immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.
  • A 6-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans will be provided.
  • The required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds will be reduced by 25% for 2020.
  • $157.3 million will be provided to the Reaching Home initiative to support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • $50 million will be provided to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help them manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities.

4. Flexibility for Taxpayers

  • The tax return filing due date for individuals will be deferred until June 1, 2020.
  • The tax return filing due date for trusts with a taxation year ending on December 31, 2019 will be deferred until May 1, 2020.
  • Taxpayers will be allowed to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18, 2020 and before September 2020.
  • As a temporary administrative measure, the Canada Revenue Agency will recognize electronic signatures as having met the signature requirements of the Income Tax Act.

5. Role of Financial Institutions

  • Canadian banks have affirmed their commitment to work with customers to provide flexible solutions for managing hardships caused by COVID-19.  Canada’s large banks have confirmed this will include up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.

6. Mortgage Default Management Tools

  • The Government, through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is providing increased flexibility for homeowners facing financial difficulties to defer mortgage payments on homeowner CMHC-insured mortgage loans.

Support for Businesses

1. Supporting Canadian Business through the Canada Account.

  • The Minister of Finance will now be able to determine the limit of the Canada Account to deal with exceptional circumstances.  The Canada Account is administered by Export Development Canada and is used by government to support exporters when deemed in the national interest.  This allows the government to provide support to Canadian companies through loans, guarantees or insurance policies.

2. Helping Businesses Keep their Workers

  • Eligible small business employers, non-profit organizations and charities will be provided with a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.

3. Flexibility for Businesses Filing Taxes

  • All business will be allowed to defer until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18, 2020 and before September 2020.

4. Ensuring Businesses Have Access to Credit

  • The Business Credit Availability Program will allow the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to provide more than $10 billion of additional support, largely for small- and medium-sized businesses.
  • The near term credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector will also be increased through Farm Credit Canada.
  • The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions has announced it will be lowering the Domestic Stability Buffer by 1.25% of risk-weighted assets, effective immediately.  This will allow Canada’s large banks to inject $300 billion of additional lending to the economy.
  • The Bank of Canada has cut the interest rate to 0.75%.

5. Supporting Financial Market Liquidity

  • The government will launch an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program under which it will purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

For more information, see: Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

The Lieutenant Governor in Council has put into effect the Employment Standards (COVID-19 Leave) Regulation, which provides that an employee is entitled to unpaid leave for 14 consecutive days if the employee is under quarantine, which includes any self-isolation and self-quarantine as a result of COVID-19, as may be recommended or directed by the Chief Medical Officer.  Also of note, employees need not be employed by the same employer for 90 days to qualify for this leave and a doctor’s note is not required. Employees under quarantine are also not required to provide their employers with notice of the date that they intend to return to work. The Minister may extend the leave if the Chief Medical Officer recommends it is necessary for specified reasons.  The regulation is deemed to be effective as of March 5, 2020 which means it will apply retroactively to leaves taken since that date.

The government will provide immediate financial assistance to Albertans affected by COVID-19:

1. Financial supports for Albertans

  • Emergency Isolation Support ($50 million) – a temporary program for working adult Albertans who must self-isolate because they meet the Government of Alberta’s published criteria for self-isolation, including persons who are the sole caregiver for a dependent who must self-isolate, and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while they are self-isolated.  The program is meant to bridge the gap until the federal emergency payments begin in April and is expected to be available for application online next week.
  • Utility (electricity and natural gas) payment holiday – residential, farm, and small commercial customers can defer bill payments for the next 90 days.
  • Student loans repayment holiday – a six-month, interest-free moratorium on Alberta student loan payments will be implemented.

2. Banks and credit unions

ATB Financial customers impacted by COVID-19:

  • Personal banking customers can apply for a deferral on their ATB loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for up to six months.
  • Small business customers, in addition to payment deferrals on loans and lines of credit, will be provided access to additional working capital.
  • For other business and agriculture customers, ATB will work with customers on a one-on-one basis and further solutions are being considered at this time.

Alberta credit unions:

  • Credit union members will have access to a variety of programs and solutions designed to ease difficulties with loan payments and short-term cash flow.
  • Both individual and business members are encouraged to proactively contact their credit union directly to work out a plan for their personal situation.

3. Employers

The government will defer the collection of corporate income tax balances and instalment payments, due after March 18, until Aug. 31, 2020.

Effective March 18, 2020, all passenger ropeways, such as gondolas and chairlifts, will be closed under the Safety Codes Act.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Effective March 18, British Columbia has declared a provincial State of Emergency, which will allow the province to implement any provincial emergency measures required with access to land and human resources assets that may be necessary to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of an emergency.  This includes securing the critical supply chains to make sure people have access to essential goods and services.  The state of emergency is in effect for 14 days, but may be extended or rescinded as necessary.

British Columbians needing non-medical information about COVID-19, such as travel recommendations, social distancing, and access to supports and resources can call 1-888-COVID-19.  For medical-related COVID-19 questions, call 811.

For more information, see: Province declares state of emergency to support COVID-19 response.

Effective March 18, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court suspended all regular operations in the province until further notice. The provincial Downtown Community Court as well as the Vancouver Criminal Court has also suspended operations, in addition to the Campbell River, Chilliwack and Nanaimo courthouses, which were suspended on March 17, 2020.

Effective March 17, 2020, Dr. Henry, Provincial Health officer, has also ordered that:

  • All bars, nightclubs, and pubs (i.e. businesses with primary liquor licenses) in the province must close indefinitely. Other businesses remain subject to the social-distancing measures in place, meaning that if they cannot provide spaces which allow individuals to stay 1-2 metres apart, they are required to close, or only offer takeout or delivery meals.
  • All individuals who travelled outside of Canada since March 12, 2020 must remain at home upon their return, and may only leave to undertake essential errands, for a period of 14 days after their return to Canada.  Such individuals are required to carry tissues or a mask outside the house. This essentially reflects an order that those returning to Canada comply with the previous self-isolation recommendations.

Effective March 17, 2020, the provincial government ordered that elementary and secondary school classes in the province will be suspended, indefinitely.  Students will receive final grades regardless of the shutdown, and will proceed to the next grade in the fall semester if currently eligible to do so.

The British Columbia government also announced forthcoming changes to BC’s Employment Standards Act.  The changes are aimed at protecting workers and preventing layoffs in the event that a person has to stay at home to self-isolate in the interest of protecting their co-workers and their sector. The BC Legislature will reopen on March 23, 2020 with 12 members sitting, in order to consider two new pieces of legislation: the aforementioned amendments to BC’s Employment Standards Act, as well as the introduction of a Supply Act.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Effective March 18, Saskatchewan has declared a provincial State of Emergency, which will give the government broad powers to address the pandemic including the ability to limit travel and to deploy property or equipment.

These measures are effective immediately:

  • Public gatherings larger than 50 people are prohibited.
  • All restaurants, bars and event venues must limit their seating to 50 per cent of capacity or up to a maximum of 50 people, whichever is lesser, and must be able to ensure social distance of one to two metres between customers.  Retail spaces including grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations are exempted from this policy but must have processes to maintain a one to two metre separation.
  • All gyms, fitness centres, casinos and bingo halls are ordered to close until further notice.

Residents are advised to limit any non-essential travel outside of Saskatchewan, with the exception of people who live in border communities and are commuting for work.

Any licensed restaurants and taverns in Saskatchewan will be permitted to sell alcohol as an offsale according to SLGA regulations indefinitely.

All crown utilities will implement bill-deferral programs allowing a zero-interest bill deferral for up to six months for Saskatchewan residents whose ability to make bill payments may be impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions.

All Government of Saskatchewan ministries, agencies and Crown corporations will implement a phased-in work from home policy effective Monday, March 23, applicable to employees deemed non-essential.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will be discontinuing all non-urgent/elective surgeries, procedures and diagnostics as of March 23.

For the latest information, residents can go to saskatchewan.ca/COVID19.

A new payment code for Virtual care by secure video link is available as of today, with physicians who offer that option.  This is in addition to virtual care by telephone.

For more information, see: COVID-19: Saskatchewan Declares State of Emergency, Imposes Additional Measures to Protect Saskatchewan Residents.

 

Québec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

Quebec’s Temporary Aid for Worker’s Program (TAWP) announced on March 17 will be available starting Thursday, March 19 and the application form will be accessible on the government’s website.

This program is available to individuals,18 years of age and over, who are otherwise ineligible for unemployment insurance and who have tested positive for COVID-19, who present symptoms, who have been in contact with an infected persons, or who are returning from abroad. Eligible individuals may also apply for this temporary aid while awaiting a decision regarding federal unemployment insurance.

Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

Le Programme d’aide temporaire aux travailleurs (PATT) annoncé le 17 mars sera disponible à partir du jeudi 19 mars et le formulaire de demande sera accessible à l’adresse suivante : https://www.quebec.ca/famille-et-soutien-aux-personnes/aide-financiere/programme-aide-temporaire-aux-travailleurs/.

Ce programme est offert aux individus, âgés de 18 ans et plus, qui sont inéligibles à recevoir des prestations d’assurance-emploi et qui ont contracté le COVID-19 ou présentent des symptômes, qui ont été en contact avec une personne infectée ou qui reviennent de l’étranger. Les personnes éligibles peuvent également demander cette aide temporaire en attendant une décision concernant l’assurance-emploi fédérale.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective March 18, Newfoundland and Labrador has declared a public health emergency, and the province is ordering gyms, cinemas, arenas, and bars to close. All gatherings of 50 or more people are not permitted. Restaurants can operate at 50% of their regular capacity, if social distancing is viable in the space. Takeout and delivery services may continue. Individuals and corporations who do not comply with the new restrictions may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective March 18, the province’s chief public health officer has asked that non-essential businesses close until further notice. Visitors are restricted from visiting Health PEI facilities. Most non-essential public provincial offices are closed to the public.

The government will also take the following actions:

  • defer all scheduled loan payments for clients of Finance PEI, Island Investment Development Inc., and the PEI Century Fund for the next 3 months;
  • provide $4.5 million to Community Business Development Corporations across the province to deliver financing to small business and entrepreneurs; and,
  • provide a temporary allowance of $200 per week for anyone who has experienced a significant drop in their working hours.

To support early childhood educators following the closure of provincially licensed childcare centres, the government will ensure that all existing child care spaces are maintained; staff are eligible for employment insurance benefits; provincial operational grants and subsidies are continued; and the ability to apply for business support grants is provided.

Effective at 2 p.m. on March 19, PEI’s government-operated liquor and cannabis stores will be closed, subject to some exceptions.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective March 19, restaurants are restricted to take-out and delivery only, with no in-person dining. Drinking establishments, winery and distillery tasting rooms and craft taprooms must close. Private liquor stores can continue to operate and craft breweries, wineries and distilleries can continue to sell their product from their storefronts.

Effective March 17, there are to be no gatherings of more than 50 people.

 

Yukon

The Government of Yukon announced the following measures:

Effective March 18, Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health declared a public health emergency. As a result, classes are suspended at all Yukon public schools until further notice. All public indoor recreational facilities are required to close until further notice.

The Yukon is establishing a stimulus package to support local workers and businesses impacted by COVID-19. This money will support Yukon workers through: establishing a COVID-19 related 14-day isolation with paid sick leave; establishing a grant program to address expenses related to cancelled events; waiving fees related to the tourism industry such as airport landing fees; deferring Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board premium payments, reimbursing those paid up front and waiving penalties and interest; enhancing local advertising efforts; supporting the cultural industry by honouring transfer payment agreements with artists; and establishing a Business Advisory Council to gather information and share with government.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Effective March 18, the Northwest Territories’ health minister has announced a state of emergency, which will be in effect from March 18 to April 1.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Effective March 18, Nunavut’s Minister of Health has declared a public health emergency.

 

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Please refer to our COVID-19 Resource Hub for previous updates, as well as additional information to help you identify the pertinent issues, understand the legal implications, minimize risk exposure and manage legal obligations during the pandemic.

 

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