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Financial Relief Measures for COVID-19

By Janet Grossett, CPM, CAE, published in DIALOGUE Magazine, June 2020


Whether you are an employee, a self-employed individual or an employer, you have likely been impacted by COVID-19. At the outset of the pandemic in March 2020, a number of jurisdictions and municipalities across the country declared a state of emergency, which led to immediate layoffs and changes to operations. For that period, Statistics Canada reported the worst change in a single month, with over 1 million employees losing their jobs, raising the unemployment rate to 7.8 per cent.1 The essential role you, Canada’s payroll professionals, play became abundantly clear. You are needed to continue paying those still employed accurately and on time, and quickly issue Records of Employment to those laid off. In addition, given the numerous government measures to address the economic impact of COVID-19, you are also being asked to advise on and implement new government aid measures. Here is some information to help.


Federal Aid

The federal government introduced Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan in March 2020. This plan includes measures such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), the Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy and more. Find detailed information on its website: https://www.canada.ca/en/departmentfinance/economic-response-plan.html.


Provincial Aid by Jurisdiction


ALBERTA

  • The Government of Alberta announced they will be providing support for healthcare aides to allow for: Increased healthcare aide staffing levels.

  • A wage top-up of an additional $2 per hour for healthcare aides.

  • Up to 1,000 paid student practicum positions to fast-track certification and get more staff into continuing care facilities.

In addition, $24.5 million is being advanced to operators to help address immediate cost pressures due to COVID-19. For more information: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirusinfo-for-albertans.aspx.


BRITISH COLUMBIA

The Government of British Columbia introduced a new Emergency Benefit for Workers, which will provide a tax-free $1,000 payment to British Columbians whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak. The benefit will be a onetime payment for British Columbians who meet the eligibility requirements for the CERB. For more information: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/home.


MANITOBA

The Government of Manitoba launched the summer student recovery plan—a new wage subsidy program to support high school and postsecondary students employed in the private and non-profit sectors. The new wage subsidy program will connect students to summer jobs that will help pay for their studies and provide the opportunity to gain valuable work experience. Under the new program, employers will have access to 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, 2020. 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 who do not qualify for the various federal government assistance programs. For more information: http://www.manitoba.ca/covid19.


NEW BRUNSWICK

The Government of New Brunswick, in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, offered a one-time income benefit of $900 for workers or self-employed people residing in New Brunswick who had lost their job due to the state of emergency. The benefit helps bridge the gap between when a person lost their job or closed their business on or after March 15, 2020, to when the national benefit takes effect. The benefit application period ended on April 30, 2020. For more information: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/corporate/promo/covid-19.html.


ONTARIO

To provide additional support for frontline workers fighting COVID-19, the Government of Ontario is providing a temporary pandemic pay of $4 per hour worked on top of their regular wages. In addition, the government will be providing monthly lump sum payments of $250 for four months to eligible frontline workers who work over 100 hours per month. The pandemic pay will be effective for 16 weeks, from April 24 to August 13, 2020, and is expected to support over 350,000 frontline workers. Eligible workers include staff in the following settings:

  • Long-term care homes

  • Retirement homes

  • Emergency shelters

  • Supportive housing

  • Social services

  • Congregate care settings

  • Corrections institutions

  • Youth justice facilities

  • Some staff in hospitals, including registered nurses and auxiliary staff

The pandemic pay is designed to support employees on the frontlines of COVID-19 and does not apply to management. For more information: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/.


PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

The Government of Prince Edward Island partnered with Sobeys on the PEI Employee Gift Card Program. This is a temporary program put in place to offer a $100 Sobeys gift value to any employee, living and working on Prince Edward Island who received an ROE as lay-off notice as a direct result of the impacts associated with COVID-19. The program was put in place to assist the employee while they await their EI payments. The application form is to be completed by the employer, who then distributes the gift card letters to affected employees. For more information: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/employee-gift-card-program.


QUEBEC

The Government of Quebec announced the establishment of an incentive program to retain essential workers, offering a $100 weekly benefit for low-income earners working full- or part-time in an essential service. The compensation seeks to ensure that full-time workers in essential sectors receive a wage that exceeds what the CERB would provide. The new benefit will be paid retroactive to March 15 for a maximum of 16 weeks. Through this compensation, workers will obtain, in addition to their wages, a taxable monthly lump sum of $400, or $1,600, for a period of 16 weeks. To be entitled to the benefit, applicants must:

  • Work in a sector declared essential during the period covered;

  • Earn a gross salary of $550 a week or less; and

  • Have annual employment earnings of at least $5,000 and total annual income of $28,600 or less, calculated before the benefit.

Applicants can apply for this temporary benefit, which could cover roughly 600,000 wage earners, by means of an online Revenu Québec form, available starting May 19, 2020, and will be paid by direct deposit starting on May 27, 2020. For more information: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/.


SASKATCHEWAN

The Government of Saskatchewan announced a financial support plan for Saskatchewan employers and employees who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan includes the following:

  • Self-Isolation Support Program: Administered by the Ministry of Finance, the Self-Isolation Support Program will provide $450 per week, for a maximum of two weeks or $900. It is targeted at Saskatchewan residents forced to self-isolate who are not covered by recent federally announced employment insurance programs and other supports. The program is designed to ensure that all Saskatchewan residents are covered by either a federal or provincial program to ensure no one is faced with choosing to work instead of protecting their family and community from COVID-19 by self-isolating.

  • Small Business Emergency Payment Program: The Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment program provides financial assistance to small businesses in Saskatchewan that have been ordered to temporarily close or significantly curtail operations during the public emergency period due to a public health order to help control transmission of COVID-19. Financial assistance includes a payment that can be used for any purpose which may include assisting businesses to cover fixed costs or to reopen the business once the pandemic is over.

For more information: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-providerresources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus.


YUKON

The Government of Yukon has initiated a paid sick leave rebate for employers. This rebate program reimburses employers who pay their employees to take sick days and self-isolate. Eligibility:

  • Employers and their employees must be Yukon-based.

  • Yukon-based businesses must also meet the following criteria:

    • Has an office with a physical address in Yukon;

    • Is subject to the Yukon Income Tax Act;

    • Is registered as per the Business Corporations Act or the Partnership and Business Name Act, where applicable;

    • Has a valid municipal business licence where applicable. The rebate covers a maximum of 10 days of wages per employee (not including benefits, payroll taxes or deductions) to allow for sick leave and/or a 14-day self-isolation period. These paid sick leave days will apply only after all existing regular paid sick leave for the employee has been used.

The rebate program cannot be split into multiple uses. Employers can only access the program once per employee. The maximum daily rebate will be $378.13 per day per employee. A doctor’s note will not be required in order to receive the rebate and the program will be in place for six months, from March 11 to September 11, 2020.

For more information: https://yukon.ca/covid-19.


KEEP UP TO DATE

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly evolve, we expect that there will be new and changing information. We recommend that you visit the Late Breaking Payroll News and COVID-19 Related Resources sections on our website regularly for the most up-to-date news (member login required).