COVID-19:  Cross country update (April 24, 2020)

24 avril 2020

( Disponible en anglais seulement )

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance – for all Provinces and Territories

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government has reached an agreement-in-principle with all provinces and territories to implement the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. This program will lower rent by 75% for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19.

Under a rent forgiveness agreement, which includes a moratorium on eviction, the mortgaged commercial property owner would reduce the small business tenant’s monthly rent by at least 75%. The tenant would be responsible for covering 25%, the property owner would be responsible for 25%, while the federal government and provinces would share the remaining 50%.

The program would cover small business tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during April, May and June.  Impacted small business tenants are businesses paying less than $50,000 per month in rent and who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70% drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues. This support will also be available to non-profit and charitable organizations.

The CECRA is expected to be operational by mid-May and further details will be available once they are finalized.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said there will be more in the coming days about rent support for larger businesses.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Silviculture Sector

B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer has released an order for industrial camps and guidelines to protect people working in the silviculture sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Every year, approximately 5,000 tree planters travel to work in remote camps throughout the province.  Due to COVID-19, this year all tree planters will be subject to strict screening procedures before admission to field camps or community accommodations and inspections will take place to ensure all required health and safety measures are in place.  For further details, see: Protecting Employees, Contractors, and Employers Working in the Silviculture Sector During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Improving Rural Internet

The $50-million Connecting British Columbia program now includes a funding stream to help improve capacity and internet speeds in underserved communities throughout the province.  Internet service providers can apply for grants of up to 90% of their expenses up to $50,000 to cover the cost of equipment, including antennas, electronics or other types of devices that relate to the performance or range of their network.

Applications for these grants are now being accepted by the Northern Development Initiative Trust.  Applications are considered on a first-come first-served basis with funding decisions being made within three to five business days.  Internet service providers must be able to complete their projects by June 30, 2020.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Site Rehabilitation Program

The new $1 billion Site Rehabilitation Program – mainly funded by the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan – will provide grants to oilfield service contractors to perform well, pipeline, and oil and gas site reclamation work.  Grant-funded work must be done in Alberta and eligible work includes:

  • closure work on inactive wells and pipelines, including remediation and reclamation;
  • removal of abandoned in-place pipelines; and
  • Phase 1 and 2 environmental site assessments.

The program will provide grants of between 25 and 100% of total project costs.  The program will provide funds in $100-million increments with the first $100 million for eligible work anywhere in the province.  Future increments may be allocated for work in specific regions, directing funds where they can have the most significant environmental benefits.  Contractors can apply online as follows:

  • May 1-31: Open to service companies significantly impacted by the economic downturn for contracts of up to $30,000 per application across Alberta. This $100-million increment will focus on projects that are eligible for 100% government funding.
  • May 15 to June 15: Open to service companies for contracts of up to $30,000 and eligible for 100% funding. This $100-million increment will focus on sites where some operators have failed landowners and where government is paying compensation to landowners as required under the Surface Rights Act.
  • Future increments will be developed for larger projects.

All laws, regulations, directives, and environmental and occupational health and safety standards, including physical distancing and COVID-19-related health guidelines, must be followed in carrying out the work.  Application and eligibility information can be found online at Site Rehabilitation Program.

Summer Events

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has confirmed that gathering restrictions currently in place also apply to all one-time or annual summer events, including arts and culture festivals, agricultural fairs and rodeos, major sporting championships and industry conferences.  These orders prohibit gatherings of 15 or more people and require groups smaller than 15 to maintain a distance of two metres from one another.

Voluntary Tracing App

To help with contact tracing, the Alberta Government has developed a mobile application called AB TraceTogether.  The app is in the final testing phase and is expected to be available for voluntary download to all Albertans in the coming weeks.

Rural Health Care

The Alberta Government is taking a number of actions to ensure the availability of rural health care:

  • Abolishing the $60,000 cap on the Rural and Remote Northern Program;
  • Increasing on-call rates for all rural physicians to $20 – 23 per hour;
  • Exempting rural physicians from the new overhead policy (additionally, the implementation of the overhead policy will be delayed for urban physicians until a complete policy review);
  • Freezing the Medical Liability Reimbursement Program deductible for all rural physicians and all family physicians at $1,000 (rates for all other urban physicians will range from a low of $1,200 to a maximum of $4,000); and
  • Implementing initiatives to improve rural physician recruitment and retention.

For more details, see Protecting access to rural health care.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

The federal and provincial governments have agreed to increase the 2020 AgriStability interim benefit payment percentage from 50% to 75% for Saskatchewan producers.  Interim benefits can provide producers with a portion of their final AgriStability benefit early, to help support losses and cover costs.

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) is also waiving the six-months farming and one production cycle criteria for participants applying for 2020 interim benefits.

To enrol in the AgriStability Program or to apply for an interim benefit, producers can contact their local SCIC office or call the AgriStability Call Centre toll-free at 1-886-270-8450 or email agristability@scic.ca.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Support for Businesses Employing Summer Students

The province has launched the Summer Student Recovery Plan, a new wage subsidy program to support high school and post-secondary students employed in the private and non-profit sectors.  Under the new program, up to $120 million is available for employers to access a $7 per hour wage subsidy, up to a maximum of $5,000 per student.  The program is open to Manitoba students aged 15 to 29, with an employment period from May 1 to September 4.  Employers can be subsidized to hire up to five students.  Reimbursement will be provided at the end of the employment period, upon proof of payment of student wages.

Employers must place students in jobs that can be accommodated under current public health orders and be able to adapt to recommendations provided by public health officials over the summer.  For the first two weeks of the program, priority will be given to employers that do not qualify for any of the various federal government assistance programs.

Emergency Benefit as Income

Today, Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced that Manitoba will be treating the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) as earned income under the provincial Employment and Income Assistance (EIA).  As a result, EIA clients who receive the CERB benefit will receive more than they would on EIA alone. They will also continue to receive prescription drug, dental and optical benefits regardless of whether they are still eligible for provincial social assistance.  For example, by treating the CERB as earned income, a couple with two children will receive $2,270 per month under both programs while still qualifying for needed health benefits.

In addition, individuals with disabilities who are new applicants to EIA will receive the same enhanced earnings exemption as existing clients. This change will make it easier for people with disabilities whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19 to receive EIA benefits in addition to the CERB.

Families will also be able to keep the increased Canada Child Benefit and GST rebate without any impact to their EIA benefits.

The EIA program has also extended coverage for health or medical needs, volunteer benefits and employment and training supports until further notice.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the Ontario and federal governments are investing up to $2.5 million in the Agri-Food Open for E-Business initiative.  This initiative will help food producers, farmers markets, retailers, garden centres, greenhouses, nurseries, and agricultural associations develop online businesses and adapt to the retail challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative includes two funding streams:

  • Eligible organizations and businesses can apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to establish an online e-business and marketing presence.  Funding under this stream will be quick and responsive for those needing immediate solutions.
  • Eligible organizations, businesses and collaborations can apply for cost-share funding of up to $75,000 to implement high-impact projects.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will immediately accept applications and expedite the approval process to help businesses and organizations develop, expand and enhance their current online presence.  More information can be found online or by calling 1-877-424-1300.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On April 24, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, André Lamontagne, announced funding of $50,000 to the Association des Marchés Publiques du Quebec (AMPQ) for the implementation of a transactional digital platform for the purchase of local bio-food products.

By enabling pre-orders, prepackaging, online payment and the collection of food in public markets, producers will be able to maintain their activities while preventing the spread of COVID-19.  This initiative will reduce the influx of consumers on the premises, the handling of food on-site and will reduce hand-to-hand monetary transactions.  The platform will be in operation as of May 16 and users will be able to find it through the AMPQ public markets directory, as well as the website and Facebook page of each market.

On April 20, the Tribunal administratif du travail extended the cancellations of all hearings and conciliation sessions, with the exception of urgent cases, until May 15.  Additional information can be found on the Tribunal’s website.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes :

Le 24 avril, le ministre de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation, M. André Lamontagne, a annoncé l’octroi d’un financement de 50 000 $ à l’Association des marchés publics du Québec (AMPQ) pour la mise sur pied d’une plateforme numérique transactionnelle pour l’achat de produits bioalimentaires locaux.

En permettant la précommande, le préemballage, le paiement en ligne et la collecte des denrées dans les marchés publics, on permet aux producteurs de maintenir leurs activités tout en évitant la propagation de la COVID-19. En effet, cette initiative diminuera l’affluence de consommateurs sur les lieux, la manipulation des aliments sur place et réduira les transactions monétaires de main à main. La plateforme sera en activité à compter du 16 mai prochain. Les utilisateurs pourront la trouver par l’entremise du répertoire des marchés publics de l’AMPQ en plus du site Internet et de la page Facebook de chaque marché.

Le 20 avril, le Tribunal administratif du travail a prolongé les annulations de toutes les audiences et séances de conciliations à l’exception des cas urgents jusqu’au 15 mai. Vous trouverez de plus amples renseignements sur le site Web du tribunal.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective April 24, the provincial government has amended the Credit Union Regulations, 2009 to allow credit unions to access the Canada Emergency Business Account program.

Additionally, the government clarified that, effective Monday at noon, employers who bring in workers from out of the country will be required to provide a 14-day isolation plan for those workers upon entering the province.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective April 24, the government has announced a phased re-opening plan.  As of today, the following activities are permitted:

  • Two-household bubbles:  Households may now choose to spend time with one other household, if both households agree.  The selection made is not interchangeable.
  • Golf courses and driving ranges:  If all physical distancing and safety measures are in place, golf courses and driving ranges can now open.
  • Recreational fishing and hunting.
  • Outdoor spaces:  With physical distancing, people can now enjoy the outdoors including parks and beaches.
  • Carpooling:  Co-workers or neighbours can carpool if physical distancing measures are maintained by transporting the passenger in the backseat.
  • Post-secondary education:  Students requiring access to campus to fulfill their course requirements will be able to do so.
  • Outdoor religious services:  As an alternative to online worship, religious organizations can hold outdoor services if parishioners stay in their vehicles that are two meters apart.

A guidance document of the public health measures to be implemented during the recovery phase is being developed and will be available soon.  Large gatherings, such as festivals and concerts, are prohibited through Dec. 31, 2020, subject to change.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective April 24, the government announced the COVID-19 Small Business Credit and Support Program as a temporary stream for access to credit, cash grants and support delivered through participating credit unions.  The program will be available starting Wednesday, April 29.  To be eligible, small businesses must have had a payroll of less than $20,000 in the previous fiscal year and have experienced a decline in revenue from sales of at least 15% in March or at least 30% in April, May or June.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective April 24, the province announced that necessary regulatory changes have been made that will allow ferment-on-premise businesses to begin operating effective April 25.  These changes will allow locations to brew, bottle, and deliver products to Islanders, as long as they continue to abide by the direction of the Chief Public Health Office in ensuring the continued safety of their clients.

Effective April 15, the Executive Council requested that the Auditor General undertake a special assignment to review the government’s financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Yukon

The Government of the Yukon announced the following measures:

Effective April 23, the property tax payment deadline has been extended from July 2 to September 2 for citizens and businesses.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Effective April 24, the government announced four temporary child care programs to support access to child care for essential workers.  The government will subsidize an additional 33% of the child care costs for parents who are required to physically attend work during COVID-19.  This is on top of the per child subsidy that is already provided directly to childcare programs to help lower the fees they need to charge to parents.  The government will also increase the Staff Grant Wage Subsidy program to provide up to an additional $1,000 a month to child care workers, to ensure programs are properly resourced.  The government will also make $665,000 available to licensed child care programs to be used for additional cleaning supplies and labour needed for enhanced disinfecting regimes.

The government also announced that it has broadened its COVID-19 testing criteria; anybody experiencing a recent onset of the following symptoms should call 8-1-1 or visit the online NWT self-assessment tool:

  • A general feeling of unease, or being ‘under the weather’
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of smell

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Effective April 24, the government announced that all Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) campuses and facilities are now closed to students until the fall.  Students with family can remain in NAC’s family residences.

The government has established a free online self-assessment tool for COVID-19.  This resource is available in all four official languages.

 

Miller Thomson is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation to ensure that we provide our clients with appropriate support in this rapidly changing environment. For articles, information updates and firm developments, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page.

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