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GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENTS

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April 2 | Update on special event licences

Due to mass gatherings being limited to a maximum of 15 people, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) has temporarily suspended its special event licensing application process online. People who had planned to host private events and had already purchased special event licences may apply for refunds by e-mailing sel@aglc.ca or visiting aglc.ca for more information.

APRIL 1 | Details on Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy released

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced further details on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program. Businesses will be able to apply through a Canada Revenue Agency portal “soon,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said today. Funds will be available approximately six weeks from applying. Companies that are signed up for CRA direct deposit will receive funds faster.

Businesses that have seen a minimum 30 per cent reduction in revenue due to COVID-19 are eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The program applies to businesses of all sizes. Non-profits and charities are also eligible if they meet the criteria.

The government will cover up to 75 per cent of a salary on the first $58,700, which could mean payments of up to $847 a week for employees. Businesses are encouraged to top up their employees wages with the remaining 25 per cent of their salaries. The program will be backdated to March 15 and run until June 6. Trudeau expressed hopes that anyone who’s been forced to lay off workers will consider hiring them back with the help of the wage subsidy increase. The program is expected to cost $71 billion.

The news follows the Government’s announcement last week that businesses can defer all Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) payments until June, as well as customs duties owed for imports. This is equivalent to providing up to $30 billion in interest free loans to Canadian businesses. It will help businesses so they can continue to pay their employees and their bills, and help ease cash-flow challenges across the country.

In Trudeau’s daily coronavirus update today he stated, “Canada hasn’t seen this type of civic mobilization since the Second World War.”

APRIL 1 | Canada Emergency Response Benefit applications open next week

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed today that applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be accepted online and by phone from April 6 for those who haven’t already applied for employment insurance. The $24 billion benefit provides $2000 a month for four months to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

CERB is the result of two existing employment insurance benefits for Canadians who are now unemployed or off work because of COVID-19.
Canadian workers over the age of 15 who have earned more than $5,000 in the last 12 months but are now earning no income because of the COVID-19 pandemic would qualify. 

“If you lost your job because of COVID-19, whether you're full time contract or self-employed, this new benefit will be there for you. If you're sick or quarantined looking after someone sick, or at home taking care of your kids. It's there for you. And even if you're still employed but not receiving income because of this crisis, the CERB is there for you,” Justin Trudeau said.

In previous days he spoke about: 

  • The potential need to close borders provincially.
  • Announcing $5 billion for farmers through Farm Credit Canada.
  • Convening House of Common Tuesday to adopt emergency measures (aid package).
  • Working with airlines on bringing Canadians home.
  • Anyone travelling abroad should be encouraged to register with Foreign Affairs.

March 20, the Prime Minister announced plans to boost the production of pandemic supplies such as ventilators and other essential medical equipment and their strategy to mobilize industry to support these efforts. He talked about new procurement streams to allow more businesses to develop products Canadians need and a focus on getting Canada’s best innovators to work.

He also highlighted that almost one million people have now applied for EI.

To see a summary of the Economic Response Plan and its timelines, click here.

APRIL 1 | Expanded child care available for essential workers

The Government is expanding eligibility for select licensed child care centres to provide child care for all essential service workers. Child care is now available to anyone who works in the critical areas outlined as essential by government, which is in addition to the previously eligible front-line health-care workers, critical infrastructure workers and first responders. A full list of those essential service positions are here

An up-to-date list of child care centres that are open can be found at alberta.ca/COVID19 (under Info for Albertans). 

March 31 | Feds allocate $2 billion to personal protective equipment

As Canada continues to see a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, the federal government announced today it is allocating $2 billion to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers. This includes masks and face shields, gowns, ventilators, test kits and swabs, and hand sanitizer. 

"We know that the demand for critical equipment and supplies will grow in the coming weeks, so we need a sustainable, stable supply of these products," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this morning. "And that means making them at home and we're optimistic that they will be available in the coming weeks."

While countries globally try to get their hands on equipment to fight the pandemic, companies across Canada are mobilizing to manufacture hospital supplies. Made-in-Canada ventilators, masks and test kits are coming soon, according to Trudeau.

March 31 | Province proposes additional measures to protect Albertans 

The Province is proposing three key pieces of legislation to protect Albertans while continuing the fight against the pandemic. Two bills, if passed, bring into force the public health enforcement activities and rental protections announced by Premier Jason Kenney on March 27. An additional bill is proposed to support economic activity in the energy sector in light of job losses due to COVID-19 and the recent oil price wars.

The two proposed bills that are intended to support and protect Albertans during the pandemic will:

  1. Provide law enforcement agencies full authority to enforce public health orders during a pandemic.
  2. Ensure no one will be retroactively charged for residential rent increases or late fees while the state of public health emergency is in effect.

March 30 | First COVID-19 Case in Banff Confirmed

You may have heard that on Friday, March 27, Alberta Health Services (AHS) identified at least one positive case of COVID-19 in Banff, which is part of the Calgary Health Zone. As with other areas, AHS has isolated the case and is contacting anybody who may have been in contact with the individual and all are being directed to take necessary and mandatory steps to prevent the spread of the virus. The individual is receiving the care they require. Visit the Town of Banff for more information on this case.

It is critical Banff residents continue to follow health protocols. Individuals and businesses must sign up for emergency alerts from the Town of Banff in the event broad communications is required.

March 30 | Local police assisting AHS with enforcement

Municipal Enforcement and the RCMP are assisting AHS in monitoring and enforcing new gathering limitations and operation of essential services only. Residents can report concerns through the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC). Educating the public is currently their main focus. 

March 30 | Coming week crucial in determining whether we are preventing the spread

In her daily update on Saturday, federal chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam shared the impact of aggressive physical distancing measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will become clearer this week.

"I still think it's a little too early to tell because we are only at the end of March, but next week will be very important in terms of looking at those trends," said Tam.

Alberta is among the provinces that Dr. Tam is keeping a close eye on to see if there will be a decrease in the new rate of confirmed cases, as British Columbia has seen. According to Dr. Tam, measures taken over the past two weeks will only begin showing up in the data tracking the rate of the spread this week. This is due to the virus being able to survive in the human body for up to 14 days. Learn more from the Globe and Mail.

March 30 | New rules for Albertans in mandatory self-isolation

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, has announced five additional deaths today from the pandemic, bringing the total fatalities in the Province to eight. As the number of cases continues to rise, she stresses that following public health guidelines will save lives. 

To standardize protocols across the country, Albertans who are returning travelers or close contacts of cases are now not permitted to leave their property for the duration of the 14-day self-isolation period. That includes symptomatic individuals and those feeling well. If you live in an apartment building, you cannot use the elevator or stairwell in the building. See news release.

MARCH 28 | GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA LISTS HOTELS, FOOD DELIVERY AS ESSENTIAL SERVICES

Yesterday, we highlighted that the Premier Jason Kenney announced greater restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19. Although restrictions are now in place for a range of businesses, the following “food and shelter” businesses are considered essential services:

  • Assisted living facilities, seniors lodge, including homeless shelters and accredited seniors facilities
  • Supply chain, distribution and wholesale staff, including inspectors and food safety staff
  • Key retail staff of food distribution facilities, including grocery and convenience stores
  • Food production staff, especially of staples such as butchers, bakers, and fishmongers
  • Restaurants and other food preparation facilities, including those with alcohol service only for delivery or takeout (no dining room service)
  • Food delivery services
  • Food-related charities, such as food banks and “Meals on Wheels”
  • Hotels, motels, rental units and similar facilities, including student residences and accommodation sharing services

Restrictions are now in place for the following:

  • Close contact businesses: including hair salons and barbershops, tattoo and piercing studios, esthetic services, as well as wellness studios and clinics and non-emergency and non-critical health services provided by regulated health professionals or registered professionals including dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, podiatry, chiropractic and optometry services.
  • Dine-in restaurants: no longer able to offer dine-in service. Take-out and delivery services will continue to be available.
  • Non-essential retail services that fall into the categories of clothing, computer and gaming stores, and services in shopping malls and shopping centres such as hobby and toys, gift and specialty items and furniture.

The Government’s complete essential services list is now online.

March 27 | Trudeau announces $25 billion Canada Emergency Business Account

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today the launch of the Canada Emergency Business Account. The new program will offer qualifying businesses $40,000 in guaranteed loans. The loans will be interest-free for the first year, and up to $10,000 of that amount will be forgivable for businesses that meet certain criteria. More details are expected by Monday, March 30. 

March 27 | Bank of Canada slashes key interest rate to .25%

While COVID-19 and the abrupt decline in world oil prices continue to seriously impact Canada’s economy, the Bank of Canada has made the unscheduled rate decision to lower its key interest rate to .25 per cent. The decision was made to support the Canadian financial system and economy during the pandemic.

March 27 | Government of Alberta announces tax relief for the tourism industry

The Government of Alberta has announced hotel and other lodging providers can delay paying the tourism levy until August 31 for amounts that become due to government on or after today. As a result, this frees up more than $5 million in additional cash flow for employers.

This can be used to retain staff, maintain operations and continue providing a valuable service. Hotels and other lodging providers are still expected to file returns, as required by legislation. The tourism levy from guests staying at their properties during this period must continue to be collected. Payments deferred until August 31 will not be subject to penalties or interest.

Additional measures to assist Alberta employers:

  • The collection of corporate income tax balances and instalment payments is deferred until Aug. 31. This gives Alberta businesses access to about $1.5 billion in funds to help them cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Education property tax amounts are frozen at 2019 levels, saving Alberta households and businesses about $87 million in 2020-21.
  • Education property tax payments by businesses are deferred for six months, leaving $458 million with job creators to help them pay employees and continue operations.
  • Private-sector employers can defer paying Workers’ Compensation Board premiums until 2021, with a rebate eligible for those who have already paid their 2020 WCB premiums. The government will pay 50 per cent of 2020 WCB premiums for small and medium businesses.
  • Utility payments for residential, farm and small commercial customers can be deferred for the next 90 days to ensure no one is cut off from electricity and natural gas services during this time of crisis.

MARCH 27 | VEHICLE RESTRICTIONS NOW APPLY TO PARKS AND RECREATION AREAS

Automobile access is temporarily suspended at access points to all provincial parks as well as provincial recreation areas. The restrictions, which came into effect March 27 at 1 p.m. through two ministerial orders, are in place to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and are the same restrictions currently in place at national parks. Last weekend revealed a disturbing trend of people not exercising physical distancing and leaving behind garbage and human waste in some provincial parks.

MARCH 27 | TOWN OF BANFF REMINDS ALBERTANS TO STAY HOME AND URGES LANDLORDS TO PROVIDE RENT DEFERRALS

Today, the Town of Banff reminded Albertans to stay home and stay safe this weekend to ensure the resilience of our local health and essential services in supporting Banff and Lake Louise residents and businesses.

The Banff Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) is also calling on all residential landlords to provide rent deferrals or reductions to tenants whose jobs have been impacted by COVID-19. They believe the mortgage deferral and other supports to businesses should help with being able to offer rent support until EI and other emergency aid to individuals are in place. 

The Banff Housing Corporation model for Ti’nu Apartment renters is a good example of how the Town is supporting residents. ECC asks all landlords to contact tenants to identify their situation. Learn more.

This was reinforced by the Province today. See news release: Increased security for Alberta renters.

MARCH 26 | Town of Banff offers property owners deferred tax payments

The Town of Banff announced on March 25 that property owners who are on monthly payment plans for property taxes will be able to suspend their monthly contributions until the annual tax deadline on June 30. In addition, a refund can be requested for the first three months of payments made in January, February, and March. Tax payers not on the payment plan still have three months before tax bills are due.

This news follows the provincial government’s announcement to cancel its 3.4 per cent population and inflation increase for education property taxes in the 2020 budget. 

To arrange the suspension of monthly tax payments and apply for a temporary refund, email taxes.utilities@banff.ca.

MARCH 26 | New online assessment tool announced for health care workers

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta Chief Medical Officer, announced today an online assessment tool designed specifically for health care workers will launch on March 27, 2020. This is a response to addressing the issue of community transmission, which has been deemed one of the biggest sources of cases to date. This tool will exist along with the existing online assessment tool for the public.

MARCH 26 | Free Text4hope Service Supports Mental Health and Wellness

Feeling stress, anxiety and depression due to the COVID-19 crisis? Free daily text messages from Alberta Health Services (AHS) offer advice and encouragement to help people cope in this time of stress and isolation. Visit AHS Text4Hope for more information.

March 25 | Province grants law enforcement full authority to issue fines

With the total number of cases in Alberta reaching 419 (61 new), and the second death in Alberta confirmed, Premier Jason Kenney gave law enforcement agencies full authority to enforce public health orders and issue fines.

Through amendments to the Procedures Regulation under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act, community peace officers, in addition to police, will be able to issue tickets to enforce COVID-19 public health orders. Fines now administered through tickets for violating an order have increased from up to $100 per day to a prescribed fine of $1,000 per occurrence. Courts will also have increased powers to administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations. These new fines will be in force over the coming days.

The Province announced new protocols for COVID-19 testing as well as new self-isolation timelines for those who are sick:

  • Albertans with symptoms are to self-isolate for 10 days after the onset of symptoms. If symptoms go beyond 10 days, continue to isolate.
  • Travellers or those exposed to COVID-19 must continue to self-isolate for 14 days.

Testing will be now be prioritized for the following individuals, if they are symptomatic:

  • People who are hospitalized with respiratory illness.
  • Residents of continuing care and other similar facilities.
  • People who returned from travelling abroad between March 8 and March 12 (before the self-isolation protocols were in place.
  • Health-care workers with respiratory symptoms (this testing will begin later this week).

Premier Jason Kenney announced more relief is on its way for Albertans and employers

March 19, Kenney announced $50 million for Alberta residents that are self-isolating, and today he confirmed self isolation payments of up to $1,100 over two weeks per qualified person will be available. The support is meant to serve as a bridge before Federal payments flow.

The Province is expecting the worst unemployment numbers in Alberta history, as they are seeing massive layoffs directly in tourism, aviation, hospitality, as well as the oil and gas sector. He could not overstate how challenging this will be.

Additional economic support announced by the province includes:

  • Albertans can apply to defer utility charges for residential and businesses for the next 90 days, regardless of providers.
  • $60 million for homeless shelters, women’s emergency shelters, and support for seniors.
  • Like the Federal Government, Alberta will implement a 6-month interest free deferral for student loans.
  • ATB announced business loan and mortgage payment deferral for their customers—apply for up to 6 months.
  • Individuals and businesses encouraged to work out a plan with their credit unions.
  • Suspending the collection of corporate income taxes and installments until August 1, 2020.

Albertans can now meet with physicians online

  •  Find more information and download the app here.

Town of Banff resident support system now in place

The Town of Banff Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) has launched its support system to help residents who have been laid off due to business closures throughout the resort town.

Email help@banff.ca.

If you do not have email access call: 403-762-1251.