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GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENTS

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May 11 | Province launches business relaunch support website, Biz Connect

To aid businesses in preparing for economic relaunch the province unveiled today a new website, Biz Connect. This additional resource provides sector-specific health and safety guidelines for business owners that are able to reopen in phase one. The website is currently updated with current information for hair salons, barbers, shops, daycares, day camps, restaurants, retail, museums, art galleries and more. The platform includes a common questions section and the opportunity to submit questions that have not been addressed. According to the province, the information will be continually updated.

May 11 | Province to test up to 1,000 Calgarians per day for this week only

In her daily address this afternoon, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, provincial chief medical officer of health, announced a temporary boost for COVID-19 testing for Calgary Zone residents. For one week only, asymptomatic individuals can register online to get tested for the virus. A maximum of 1,000 people that work outside their home can get tested. Testing is first come, first served. Testing asymptomatic individuals in a zone that’s home to the majority of cases in Alberta will provide more insight into the spread of the virus.

May 11 | Province launches new online hub to coordinate community services for seniors

A new online hub called Collaborative Online Resources and Education (CORE) will coordinate community services for older Albertans and seniors during the pandemic and beyond. CORE will provide a platform for seniors-serving organizations to improve service delivery. The hub will make it easier for organizations to share resources and coordinate services, with a focus on key COVID-19 issues, including transportation, food security, social isolation and home supports. Learn more.

May 11 | Feds announce increased access to capital for mid-sized businesses

The federal government announced today it will be extending the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) from small businesses to mid-sized businesses that require additional capital as well. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) will be working with private sector lenders to increase access to capital. Companies in all sectors that have larger financing needs will be able apply for loans of up to $60 million per company and guarantees of up to $80 million. More details to come. 

May 11 | Trudeau unveils new support for large employers impacted by COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today the rollout of a new multimillion-dollar loan program designed to provide financing access to large employers impacted by the pandemic and the economic downturn it has prompted. The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) will provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers, whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through conventional financing, in order to keep their operations going.

The support will help protect Canadian jobs, help Canadian businesses weather the current economic downturn, and avoid bankruptcies of otherwise viable firms where possible. This support will not be used to resolve insolvencies or restructure firms, nor will it provide financing to companies that otherwise have the capacity to manage through the crisis. To qualify for LEEFF support, eligible businesses must be seeking financing of about $60 million or more, have significant operations or workforce in Canada, and not be involved in active insolvency proceedings. See the news release for more information.

May 11 | Details released about Canada’s Emergency Support Fund for cultural, heritage and sport organizations

The Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, has shared that a total of up to $500 million has been set aside to help alleviate the financial pressures of affected organizations. 
Partner organizations will be contacted so that funds can begin to flow to cultural and sport organizations. Canadian Heritage is working closely with its partners – in particular, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canada Media Fund, FACTOR, Musicaction, and Telefilm Canada – to distribute the funds as quickly as possible using existing channels. Learn more from Canadian Heritage.
 

May 8 | Feds extending wage subsidy beyond June

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that the federal government will be extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Currently, the program subsidizes 75 per cent of employee wages for up to 12 weeks, retroactive from March 15 to June 6, 2020. Trudeau didn’t have further details but said these are to come next week.

Applications for the CEWS opened on April 27. Notably, individuals cannot receive both the wage subsidy and Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). If they do receive both, Trudeau advised to keep some money aside, as it will have to be paid back eventually. Eligible businesses can use an online calculator to help determine how much they will be able to claim through the program. 

Eligible businesses must show a minimum 15 per cent loss of revenue for March 2020 compared to January or February this year, or March last year. Non-profits and charities can now choose if they wish to include government funding when calculating revenue to determine if they qualify for the program. 

As part of the program, 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. Trudeau expressed hopes that any businesses that have been forced to lay off workers will consider hiring them back as they receive the wage subsidy. 

Eligible employers are able to apply for the CEWS through the Canada Revenue Agency's My Business Account portal. Companies that are signed up for CRA direct deposit will receive funds faster. Employers will need to keep records demonstrating their reduction in arm's-length revenues and remuneration paid to employees. 

May 8 | Feds announce $4 billion top up to essential worker wages

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced yesterday that the federal government will send the provinces and territories $4 billion to increase the wages of essential workers earning under $2,500 a month during the pandemic. Provinces and territories will determine which workers are deemed essential and will be expected to contribute funding to the program. Details are yet to be finalized.

May 8 | Province advises responsible travel to vacation homes within Alberta allowed

In her daily address today, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health, advised that responsible travel within the province to vacation homes is now okay. Albertans that choose to visit summer homes, cabins and cottages are reminded to follow local community guidelines. If planning a trip of this kind, she said to prepare for minimal stops by packing food and stopping only if necessary. Travel outside the province is still not advised.

May 6 | Province unveils new webpage for relaunch strategy

This week, the province unveiled a new webpage that outlines details of Alberta’s relaunch strategy, including a timeline of which stage we are at, the restrictions at each stage and guidance documents. All workplaces are required to develop and implement policies and procedures to address COVID-19 prior to re-opening or continuing operations. This is a good place to start. View the page.

May 4 | Province sees some businesses reopen today

Last Thursday we shared the province’s relaunch strategy, which identified stages of reopening businesses and services and when it is safe to do so. To reiterate, some health-care services were allowed to resume starting today, as long as they are following approved guidelines set by their professional colleges. 

For most other businesses, online only and curbside/take-out and delivery services are available, at this time. These include:

  • Retailers of non-essential goods
  • Restaurants and cafes
  • Stylists and barbers
  • Galleries
  • Optometry and similar health services

According to the province, the services above may open in stage one, which could be as early as May 14, or it could be later, when specific conditions are met.

There are a number of conditions that need to be satisfied prior to opening these services and businesses, such as in-store shopping (retail) and in-store dining (restaurants) apart from delivery or curb-side pickup.The province has identified the following conditions that must exist before businesses and services can open:

  • Enhanced COVID-19 testing capacity at the highest level in Canada.
  • Robust and comprehensive contact tracing, aided by technology (AB TraceTogether), to quickly notify people who may have been exposed.
  • Support for those who test positive for COVID-19, to enable isolation and effectively contain the spread.
  • Stronger international border controls and airport screening, especially for international travellers.
  • Rules and guidance for the use of masks in crowded spaces, especially on mass transit.
  • Strong protections for the most vulnerable, including those in long-term care, continuing care and seniors lodges.
  • Rapid response teams to deal with future outbreaks

Moving to this stage of reopening will also depend on keeping Alberta’s COVID-19 infection rates low, and well within the capacity of the healthcare system. Health measures to help determine our rates include:

  • Percentage of tests that are positive
  • Hospitalization and intensive care unit (ICU) rates

In addition, the province will monitor health triggers in localized regions.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) will work with the Town of Banff to determine if there are certain circumstances that would require further restrictions in Banff, or ability to open in line with provincial guidelines.

May 4 | Province releases updated workplace guidance 

On May 3, the province released updated guidelines for business owners that outline the policies and procedures that should be in place prior to re-opening or continuing operations after May 4. Guidance documents for each industry sector, such as retail, restaurants, and personal services, are being prepared by the province. We will share these when they become available. 

For further details on the relaunch strategy, read the province’s press release.

May 4 | Reminder: Province advises against non-essential travel

The province announced that Alberta Parks will be available for visitation as of May 1 and that camping could be available as early as June 1. However, the government also issued this clarification on non-essential travel: 

Non-essential travel is still not recommended, including travel within Alberta. This will remain the case until the third stage of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy. Now is not the time to visit mountain communities for the weekend. National parks remain closed to visitors.

May 1 | The Province reminds Albertans non-essential travel still not recommended

In her daily update today, the Chief Medical Officer of Health reminded people that non-essential travel is still not recommended, including travel within Alberta. This will remain the case until the third stage of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy. The province wants Albertans to know that now is not the time to visit mountain communities for the weekend.

May 1 | AHS launches mobile app to improve contact tracing

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has introduced a voluntary smartphone app, ABTraceTogether, to facilitate early detection and help prevent the spread of the virus. The app will use Bluetooth to log anytime it comes within two metres of another person with the app for cumulative 15 minutes. If a user has been in contact with another user that tests positive, they will receive a phone call from AHS. Global News goes into more detail about how the app works.

The app does not track the user’s physical location and does not use GPS. AHS noted all contact data is only on the user’s phone and is deleted after 21 days. The app is now available from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

May 1 | House of Commons approve $9B student aid package

On Wednesday, parliament fast-tracked and passed a $9-billion aid package to support struggling post-secondary students during the pandemic.

The Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) will pay $1,250 per month from May to August to students currently enrolled in post-secondary education programs; who have graduated after December 31, 2019 or who are enrolled in post-secondary educational programs for the 2020-21 school year. The CESB is intended to lessen financial burdens for post-secondary students who are struggling to find summer employment. The monthly benefit amount increases to $1,750 for disabled students and students who are caring for dependants. The CESB is also available to students that are currently employed, so long as their monthly income does not exceed $1,000.

Additionally, in April the feds announced:

  • The creation of 76,000 jobs in needs sectors to support students
  • $291 million in scholarships, fellowships and grants for post-graduate students
  • The doubling of current grants for eligible students
  • Payments to student volunteers assisting in the fight against COVID-19 ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on hours served.  

April 30 | Province announces staged relaunch plan

This afternoon, Premier Jason Kenney shared a very important announcement for Albertans and our tourism industry, when he released a phased approach to the gradual re-opening of the economy. According to the plan, which is not set in stone, some businesses will be able to open as soon as May 4, followed by progressing into stage one on May 14. The news comes as data demonstrates Albertans have been able to limit the spread of the virus thus far. 

Here’s what we know, which is subject to change. Starting as soon as May 4:

  • Some scheduled, non-urgent surgeries will resume
  • Dental and other health-care workers will be allowed to resume services
  • Golf courses can open, with restrictions including keeping clubhouses and pro shops closed. 

See the graphic for highlights of the three-phased plan:

Alberta COVID-19 Relaunch stage highlights

Throughout all stages, the following will remain in place:

  • Physical distancing requirements of two metres.
  • Hygiene practices for businesses and individuals.
  • Albertans with COVID-19 symptoms will be required to stay home.

Please note, the limit of 15 people gathering will remain in place, meaning major events will remain cancelled. This restriction will gradually lift over time. Albertans are also expected to continue to work from home where possible and limit travel to essential needs only.

Stage three involves fully reopening all businesses and services, with some limited restrictions in place. Non-essential travel restrictions will be lifted in stage three.

Phases will be monitored by various triggers that will inform when it’s possible to advance to the next phase. Please note this is all subject to change.

There will be foundational elements required by all, including continued testing and contract tracing, border controls, rules and guidance for use of masks, protecting the vulnerable and physical distancing.

This is great news for beginning to re-opening our economy. Our hard work is paying off, however, we aren’t out of the woods yet. Provincial chief medical officer of health, Dr. Hinshaw said, “today marks the start of the ‘taking care of each other’ phase." While we may face more challenges ahead, we’re on the right track to normalcy and this is positive news for everyone in our industry. 

Read the province’s press release for further details.

Banff & Lake Louise “Survive to Thrive” Working Group started to coordinate reopening 

In light of this strategy and the potential opening of some parts of the province’s economy including some additional recreation areas, it is of utmost importance that we work together as a destination in a coordinated manner.

Please be assured that we are working with our partners at Parks Canada, the Town of Banff, and Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association as part of the Banff & Lake Louise “Survive to Thrive” Working Group. This group has been struck to deliver a phased plan to safely and effectively re-open the economy in Banff National Park. This group will create a plan that not only supports the rebound of the local economy, but lays the foundation for long-term viability of tourism in Banff National Park.

The Working Group will be consulting with stakeholders invested in the success of the tourism economy of the park and may engage external support in creating the shared vision for the future of tourism in Banff National Park.

It’s important to remember that Banff National Park is under the jurisdiction of the federal government which has added complexity and additional coordination factors.

More details will be shared in the coming days including how you can get involved.

April 29 | Feds release updated projections on COVID-19 cases and deaths

Yesterday, the Public Health Agency of Canada released new projections on COVID-19 cases and deaths in Canada. In an afternoon briefing, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam shared short-term predictions that Canada could reach 66,835 cases as a worst-case scenario or as low as 53,196 cases in the best-case scenario. The number of deaths could reach 3,883 by May 5 under the worst-case scenario, or 3,277 under the best-case.
 
“Canada’s confirmed case count was doubling every three to five days [on April 9]. At this time, the number of cases is doubling at a rate of every 16 days,” said Tam. 
 
The data indicates Canada is slowing the overall spread of the first wave of the virus, which can be largely attributed to social distancing measures and economic restrictions designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Despite the positive news, Tam warned that public health measures will need to remain in place until there is a high level of immunity or a vaccine to avoid "future epidemic waves." To stay on course, she says Canadians must continue physical distancing, contact tracing and quarantine measures.
 
Additional key takeaways from the current data and new modelling:

  • Current transmission rates see the virus spread to just over one other person, in comparison to the April 9 modelling that indicated each infected person had spread the virus to 2.9 other individuals.
  • Canada is approaching 50,000 known cases, of which more than 2,700 have been fatal.
  • So far, long-term care facilities have accounted for 79 per cent of deaths.
  • Tam said 740,000 tests have been administered across Canada so far, with approximately 20,000 people getting tested daily. Of those, seven per cent have tested positive. 

The new modelling was released as the federal government and the provinces agreed to a set of loose guidelines that must be met before health restrictions are lifted.

April 29 | Province’s updated modelling includes new likely “low” scenario

The province has updated its COVID-19 modelling which was first unveiled on April 9, which now includes a new “low” modelling scenario. This estimates 298 Albertans will require hospitalization and 95 will require critical care when the COVID-19 reaches its peak. If current trends continue, this scenario will become the most likely scenario for Alberta. 

Updated modelling scenarios continue to estimate that Alberta’s outbreak will reach its peak in late May. According to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, the number of Albertans hospitalized at the peak of the virus could be much lower than originally estimated. Kenny mentioned the trends in terms of hospitalization continue to be “encouraging.”
 
The updated modelling depicts three scenarios.
 
Updated “probable” scenario for Alberta:

  • 596 people (9 per cent of cases)  will require hospitalization at the virus’s peak, down from 818 forecasted previously.
  • Approximately 190 people would need treatment in intensive care, down from 232 forecasted previously.

Updated “elevated” scenario for Alberta, if residents do not adhere to social distancing regulations:

  • 745 people (9 per cent of cases) will require hospitalization at the virus’s peak, down from 1,570 forecasted previously.
  • Of those, 248 people would be in intensive care, down from nearly 400.

 The new ”low” scenario for Alberta:

  •  298 people (4.5 per cent of cases) will require hospitalization at the virus’s peak.

Unlike the other two models, the “low” scenario takes into account the province’s experience handling the virus, rather than referencing trends from other jurisdictions. According to Kenny, this could become the most likely scenario, as Albertans have been doing a good job following public health measures.

“We have significantly gone below our original models and well below the maximum capacity of our health-care system. If flattening the curve meant reducing the actual peak of hospitalizations below the maximum capacity of the health-care system, so far we have achieved that,” said Kenney.

April 29 | Prime Minister and Premiers release guidelines to reopening economy

Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal, provincial, and territorial governments have agreed to a set of common principles for restarting the Canadian economy. The statement identifies the criteria that needs to be in place before everyone can go back to normal, acknowledges the importance of restarting the economy through a gradual approach, and outlines that each province and territory will take different steps at different times, reflecting the specific circumstances in each jurisdiction. View the statement.

April 29 | Province contemplates whether to expand list of COVID-19 symptoms

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has added chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headaches and new loss of taste or smell to its list of COVID-19 symptoms. In light of this, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer has shared that she will be considering whether to expand Alberta’s testing criteria to include these newly recognized symptoms. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

April 29 | Province revises Rural and Remote Northern Program community list

The provincial government has revised the community rate list for Alberta’s Rural Remote Northern Program (RRNP), which compensates doctors working in under-served areas with flat-fee payments and variable fee premiums. The previous omission of Banff and several other Bow Valley communities has been rectified. 

April 24 | Feds announce details of Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program

This morning 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 per cent for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19.

CECRA will provide a loan retroactive to April 1 to qualified commercial property owners supporting 50 per cent of rent for April, May, and June of this year. The loan will be forgivable if the property owner and tenant come to a rent forgiveness agreement that lowers the eligible small business’s rent by 75 per cent for the three months and includes a moratorium on eviction.

The program is anticipated to be running by mid-May and will be administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Impacted small business tenants are businesses paying less than $50,000 per month in rent who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70 per cent drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues. This support will also be available to non-profit and charitable organizations.

Further details on CECRA will be shared by CMHC in the coming weeks when final terms and conditions are available. Until that time, property owners are encouraged to provide flexibility to tenants facing hardship in this uncertain time.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that assistance for larger businesses will be announced shortly.

April 24 | Alberta mass gatherings and events banned until at least September

In her address on Thursday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that the province would continue to prohibit mass gatherings throughout the summer, citing the potential for increased spread of COVID-19 as the reason for prolonged restrictions.

Dr. Hinshaw reminded Albertans that festivals and large gatherings hold the potential to be “super-spreader” events, and that we must all do our part to continue to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Currently, any gathering over 15 people is prohibited, and gatherings of 15 or less must observe a minimum distance of two metres between individuals. It is not yet known when this restriction may be relaxed.

April 24 | Calgary Stampede and Calgary Folkfest cancelled

Both the Calgary Stampede and Calgary Folk Music Festival have officially cancelled summer events this year as a result of continuing restrictions on gatherings. The organizers of both events conveyed their sadness over the difficult decision to cancel these prominent tourism drivers, while also sharing a message of support for public safety and community health as the top priority for all Albertans.

April 24 | Local checkstops turn away 125 non-essential vehicles last Sunday

The Town of Banff announced last week that they would be commencing randomly scheduled checkstops at the town’s main entry points to remind visitors of the restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Sunday, April 19, checkstops re-routed a total of 125 non-essential vehicles from the townsite.

All levels of government continue to convey the message that non-essential travel should be avoided at this time and that Albertans should not be placing strain on neighbouring communities that need to focus their resources on keeping residents safe and healthy. Checkstops will be scheduled sporadically until further notice.

April 22 | Feds announce new Emergency Community Support Fund

The federal government is allocating $350 million to an Emergency Community Support Fund to help charities and non-profits keep up their work assisting Canada’s most vulnerable through the pandemic. The new funding will support small front-line organizations, as well as larger national groups, such as the United Way. More details are expected in the coming days.

APRIL 22 | Province calls on healthy Albertans to volunteer

Today, Premier Jason Kenny called upon Albertans to help their neighbours by volunteering. He introduced the Alberta Cares Connector to assist healthy individuals to find volunteer opportunities and connect with non-profit organizations that rely heavily on volunteers to provide services. 

While physical distancing and gathering restrictions are in place, there is still a need for healthy volunteers to help those in need with countless opportunities to do so. The Alberta Cares Connector embraces the Alberta spirit of supporting the vulnerable by offering our assistance, skills and time to those who need it most.

Additionally, in order to celebrate volunteers during this time, Kenny introduced the Northern Lights Award to honour everyday heroes as the province responds to the pandemic. The honourees will be nominated by fellow Albertans and selected for profiling on the program’s website and through social media.  Show your support by nominating members of our community giving their time and energy to helping those in need.

April 17 | Feds allocate millions of dollars to new funding initiatives 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today a new range of financial measures to help the energy, arts, culture and sports sectors that have been hard-hit by the pandemic. The federal government will provide $962 million to regional development agencies, including the Community Futures Network, to help small businesses in rural areas access funds.

Additionally, to ease the financial impact of the crisis on artists, creators and athletes and allow them to receive wage support, the government will provide $500 million dollars to Heritage Canada

The additional support aims to address some sectors that have fallen through the cracks of current financial assistant programs. 

April 16 | Feds expand eligibility for Canada Emergency Business Account

Rolled out last month to help businesses cover costs during this difficult time, the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program has now been expanded and enhanced. Trudeau announced today that businesses who spent more than $20,000 and $1.5 million on payroll in 2019 will now be eligible for a guaranteed loan. 

“This is money entrepreneurs and employers can use to cover operational costs and help with other immediate needs,” said Trudeau.

The program offers eligible businesses a $40,000 loan with $10,000 in forgiveness if repaid by December 31, 2022. Previously, only businesses with payrolls between $50,000 and $1 million were eligible. 

Visit ceba-cuec.ca for more information, including restrictions.

April 16 | Province advises Albertans to quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption

Today, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, advised Albertans to quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption in order to look after our health. 

"There is growing evidence to suggest quitting smoking or vaping, even temporarily, can have positive outcomes in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Smoking increases the risk of poor outcomes from any lung infection, and this virus mainly affects the lungs,” said Hinshaw.

Smokers or vapers that are constantly touching their mouth and lips, can make it easier to transfer the virus from their hands. She strongly recommends that anyone who smokes or vapes to take the necessary steps to quit or cut down during the pandemic.

Hinshaw also advises people to limit their alcohol consumption. "Alcohol consumption can make many things worse, including health issues, risk-taking behaviours, mental health and violence.”

Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend a maximum of two drinks per day for women and three drinks per day for men to reduce long-term health risks.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) offers free confidential support for people taking difficult health-promoting measures.

April 15 | CERB requirements expanded to include seasonal workers

In today’s nationwide address, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that assistance would be provided to an increased number of Canadians through changes to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) requirements.

The criteria have been relaxed to include anyone who earns up to $1,000 per month, workers who have depleted their Employment Insurance since January 1, and workers who were expecting a seasonal job that will not eventuate due to COVID-19.

Trudeau said that further announcements regarding post-secondary students and businesses with commercial leases are to come.

April 15 | Alberta invests $53 million into mental health response for COVID-19

Today Premier Jason Kenney announced that the government will invest $53 million into mental health support to help Albertans combat the impact of the pandemic. This funding is in addition to the $140 million that the government previously committed to mental health and addiction recovery, and surpasses the investment in mental health response by all other provinces. 

Online, phone, and in-person mental health and addiction recovery support services will receive increased funding to ensure they are readily available to all Albertans during and after the pandemic. 

Among the funding, recipients are phone and online support channels, including the Addiction Helpline, the Mental Health Helpline, the Kids Help Phone and the Community and Social Services Helpline (Alberta 211). The investment will benefit people in rural locations who may not be able to access face-to-face services.

Key helpline numbers are available in the press release.

April 15 | Town of Banff now offering isolation planning assistance

Businesses that provide staff accommodation are encouraged to review their resident space for options to accommodate isolation of residents, should it be legally required. Ideally, residents in self-isolation would not share common areas and have their own bedroom and washroom. Those that have access to hotel rooms are encouraged to set aside guest rooms as a precaution for those requiring self-isolation, as undertaken by the YWCA and several hotels. To receive advice and a facility assessment, please contact Banff’s Public Health Inspector, Kori Woodard of Alberta Health Services, by e-mail or call 403-762-3517. If you do not have a property available for precautionary isolation space, please advise Kori.

April 14 | New quarantine requirements for returning travellers

Today Prime Minister Trudeau announced new requirements for travellers returning to Canada from overseas. As of midnight on April 15, returning travellers who are unable to present a satisfactory quarantine plan will be required to check into a hotel or other designated self-isolation area.

Examples of unsatisfactory quarantine plans include those without a set destination, or those that include situations where elderly family members could be at risk.

APRIL 13 | ALBERTA FURTHER EXPANDS TESTING REQUIREMENTS

Today Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that the province will further expand its testing requirements to include all Albertans experiencing a sore throat, runny nose, fever or cough. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should first complete the online assessment. They will receive instructions from there. 

Dr. Hinshaw said the best way to arrange testing is to complete the self assessment online, which negates the need to call 811. 

This follows last week’s expansion of requirements, which included any residents of the Calgary zone exhibiting the defined symptoms, as well as essential services workers and individuals living with an individual over 65 years of age who were also displaying symptoms.

April 9 | Trudeau says only a vaccine will return us to normality

In his daily address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed that we won’t return to life as we knew it before the coronavirus until a vaccine is found for COVID-19. According to Trudeau, there is no near end in sight, and the only way to fight back against the spread is to continue practicing self-isolation and physical distancing measures.

April 9 | Alberta expands testing requirements

The province has expanded testing requirements to capture a larger sample of the population. Any resident of the Calgary zone exhibiting defined symptoms can now apply to be tested. Outside of the Calgary zone, testing has been extended only to those displaying symptoms who are also essential services workers or living with an individual over 65 years of age. 

April 9 | National Labour Force Survey reveals employment decline in public-facing industries

This morning, Statistics Canada released findings from its March 2020 labour force survey. Below are some highlights for our sector.

Significant labour impacts to accommodation and food services businesses
In March, the largest employment declines were recorded in industries involving public-facing activities or limited ability to work from home. This includes accommodation and food services (-23.9 per cent) and wholesale and retail trade (-7.2 per cent).

Employment in accommodation and food services declined by 294,000 (23.9 per cent) month-over-month. Employment declined at a similar rate in the two sub-sectors: food services and drinking places and accommodation services.

The March decrease is by far the largest employment variation in the sector since comparable data became available in 1976.

Greatest employment declines among youth
Findings also show that among youth aged 15 to 24, employment decreased by 392,500 (-15.4 per cent) in March; the fastest rate of decline across the three main age groups. The decrease was almost entirely in part-time work, and brought the employment rate for youth to 49.1 per cent, the lowest on record using comparable data beginning in 1976.

About two-thirds of youth are students, and employment fell more sharply among those enrolled in school (-31.6 per cent), than among non-students (-1.8 per cent), unadjusted for seasonality.

Approximately 20 per cent of employed youth lost all or the majority of their usual hours.

Unemployment for youth increased by 145,300 (+49.7 per cent) in March, bringing their unemployment rate up 6.5 percentage points to 16.8 per cent, the highest rate for this group since June 1997.

Read the full report.

April 9 | Free resources and supports available for small businesses

Non-profit organization Business Link is now serving as a one-stop shop for small businesses seeking support in relation to COVID-19 based on their unique needs.

Business Link can provide one-on-one guidance to Albertans who operate a small business or are pursuing an entrepreneurial venture. Small businesses can access a list of available supports on Business Link’s website, or connect with a business strategist by phone, email or live chat.

Business Link is also offering free programming through June, including webinars on a variety of topics, online events, and free expert sessions with lawyers, accountants, marketing specialists, e-commerce specialists and more. Learn more.

April 8 | Province reveals two COVID-19 scenarios

In a televised address to Albertans last night, Premier Jason Kenney announced as many as 6,600 Albertans could die as a result of the pandemic if people do not follow the government’s isolation protocols. Modelling that Alberta Health Services (AHS) had developed, suggests two scenarios; the “probable scenario” sees peak infections in mid-May, and the “elevated scenario, which sees peak infections hit in early May and would only play out if public health measures did not continue to be enforced.

Probable scenario in Alberta:

  • Hit peak infection in mid-May
  • Up to 800,000 infections by end of summer
  • Between 400 and 3,100 deaths by end of summer

Elevated scenario (less likely):

  • Hit peak infection in early May
  • Up to one million infections by end of summer
  • Between 500 and 6,600 deaths by end of summer

Without enforcing public health orders, Alberta could see as many as 1.6 million infections and 32,000 deaths, up to 640 deaths per day. Kenney explained that if this were to happen, the public health system would collapse and create a public health “catastrophe.”

According to Kenny, current public health orders may be in place until the end of May. The timeline is directly correlated with how Albertans choose to behave moving forward. Albertans are advised to continue to rigorously follow public health orders.

A relaunch strategy is currently in development that aims to help the economy recover and prevent a second wave of the outbreak. Key elements of the relaunch strategy in development are:

Aggressive mass testing measures to identify those with immunity and those who have positive cases, which would involve up to 20,000 tests a day.

  1. Expanded efforts to more precisely track the source of infection in patients. 
  2. Enforcing strong border screening measures. 
  3. Strictly enforcing quarantine orders, using technology like smart phone apps, to enforce compliance.
  4. Encouraging and facilitating the use of masks in crowded public spaces, including public transit. 

Additionally, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is already participating in trials for tests, drugs and vaccines. 

Kenney’s full address to Albertans can be found here and modeling data is available at alberta.ca/covid-19.

April 6 | CERB applications now open

Applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) opened this morning for those born in the first three months of the year. Those born in other months will be able to apply later in the week. Canadians who lost their income because of COVID-19 are eligible for the federal emergency aid benefit. Apply now to receive $2,000 a month over four months. Those registered for direct deposit will receive payment within three to five days.

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 will qualify for the benefit that has a total value of $24 billion.

“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.

April 6 | CERB to expand for applicants currently ineligible

The federal government has announced it will amend the requirements for who is eligible to apply for CERB. Those that currently fall through the cracks include freelancers, those who work in the gig economy, anyone working 10 hours a week or less, and people who are not earning $500 a week. More details to come.

April 6 |  Province announces new supports for Albertans

The province announced today the introduction of temporary rules that provide job protection for workers and flexibility for employers during this pandemic. These changes are meant to are reflected in the Employment Standards Code and ensure Albertans can care for themselves and their loved ones at this time, while offering further flexibility to employers.

New supports include:

  • Unpaid job-protected leave for employees caring for children affected by school and daycare closures or ill or self-isolated family members. The 90-day employment requirement is waived and leave length is flexible.
  • Increasing the maximum time for a temporary layoff from 60 days to 120 days, retroactive to March 17.
  • Improving scheduling flexibility by removing the 24-hour written notice requirement for shift changes, and the two weeks’ notice for changes to work schedules for those under an averaging agreement.
  • Removing the requirement to provide the group termination notice to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are being terminated.
  • Streamlining the process for approvals related to modifying employment standards so employers and workers can respond quicker to changing conditions at the workplace due to the public health emergency.

The changes above take effect immediately and will be in place as long as the government determines they are needed. See news release for further details. 

April 3 | Parents to receive Canada Child Benefit top-up this month

To alleviate pressure families with young kids may be facing in the coming months, the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) will offer a top-up to qualifying adults of up to $300 per child as part of their April payment. The temporary boost was initially announced to come into effect in May and applies to the 2019-2020 benefit period.

The measure will offer almost $2 billion in additional support for parents who have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to the pandemic and could benefit more than 3.5 million families with children. See Canada.ca for more information.

April 3 | Province launches “Bits and Pieces” program

The province announced today the launch of its “Bits and Pieces” program, which encourages individuals, private companies and non-profit organizations who can offer products and services, including personal protective equipment, to visit alberta.ca/covid19

A testament to the Albertan ingenuity and generosity, the program saw more than 1100 offers of support pour in from an array of companies in the past week while during its preliminary phase. Examples of Alberta companies filling the need can be found in this press release.

April 3 | Young people not immune to COVID-19

While senior citizens undoubtedly are the hardest hit by COVID-19, they are far from the only ones vulnerable. As the coronavirus continues its rampage around the world, it’s becoming increasingly clear that people of all ages can become infected. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, continues to repeat that everyone is susceptible and we all need to do our part and stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19. CBC has reported on why younger Canadians may be helping fuel the spread.

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 | 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 | 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 | 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 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.