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COVID-19 Updates | Weekly Workplace Recap from August 28 to September 3, 2020

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Below are the key announcements from the FederalOntario, Saskatchewan and BC governments that touch on workplace issues from August 28 to September 3, 2020.


Greater Flexibility & Extension of CEBA & BCAP Programs

The application deadline for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) has been extended from August 31 to October 31, 2020. Launched on April 9, CEBA provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their expenses that cannot be avoided or deferred as they take steps to safely navigate a period of shutdown.

However, many businesses with qualifying payroll or non-deferrable expenses have not been able to apply for CEBA due to the fact that they don't operate from a business banking account. The government is now working closely with financial institutions to make the CEBA program available to these businesses. Details on these changes will be announced in the next few days, including a new business account opening process through which qualifying businesses will be able to apply.

 In addition, the government has extended the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) until June 2021 to support the flow of additional credit that businesses need to keep employees on the payroll and maintain operations.

For more information, check out this news release

$22 Billion in COVID Assistance Funds are Potentially 'Wasted', study claims 

More than $22 billion in COVID-19 crisis response funding is potentially wasted due to failure to properly target those in genuine need, analysis from the Fraser Institute has alleged.

“Our research shows that billions are being borrowed to finance transfers to people whose need is at least questionable", says Jason Clemens, executive vice president at the Fraser Institute. 

The institute identified some of the following loopholes where taxpayer money is likely wasted:

  • Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): “$11.8 billion for young people ages 15 to 24 with 2019 earnings between $5,000 and $24,000 living with their parents as dependents in households with at least $100,000 in household income. In almost every case, the benefits provided to these young people – almost 1 million of them – under CERB exceeds their monthly earnings in 2019.”
  • Spouses eligible for CERB: “$7 billion for an estimated 581,000 spouses eligible for CERB who earned between $5,000 and $23,999 in 2019 and are living in families with at least $100,000 in household income.”

Learn more from this summary of the Fraser Institute's report.


Temporary Layoff Provisions Extended until January 2, 2021

The Ontario government is extending the maximum periods of temporary layoffs a second time. The extension will prevent temporary layoffs from automatically becoming permanent job losses until January 2, 2021.

This announcement provides more flexibility for Ontario employers, allowing them to preserve jobs longer and avoid costly termination and severance costs.

Under the normal rules, a temporary layoff will be deemed a termination after:

  • 13 weeks, if no payments or benefits are continued
  • 35 weeks, if certain payments or benefits are continued
  • for such longer period that an employee retains recall rights under any applicable collective agreement.

The Ontario government has also announced the extension of the job protected Infectious Disease Emergency Leave to parents who feel it's unsafe for their children to return to school.

For more information, check out this news release


Saskatchewan Expands & Extends the Temporary Wage Supplement Program

The Saskatchewan government has amended the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program, a program which provides eligible workers with $400 for each four-week period, for up to 16 weeks.

The following amendments include:

  • Expanding the support being provided to include additional workers at integrated care facilities as they continue to provide care services to vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Extending the end date for applications from August 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020.

For more information, check out the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program.

Further support for Saskatchewan businesses can be found here

British Columbia

BC's Public Accounts confirm Economic Impact of COVID-19

BC's fiscal year ended with a deficit of $321 million, which is $595 million lower than the surplus projected in Budget 2019, mainly due to:

  • Costs related to B.C.’s initial COVID-19 response, such as public health measures;
  • Lower taxation revenue due to COVID-19; and
  • A $298 million ICBC investment loss due to market conditions from COVID-19.

For more information, check out this news release. 

Temporary Layoff Extensions Protect Thousands of Jobs

In late June, the BC government extended the temporary layoff period a second time - this time to 24 weeks, expiring on August 30 - to give employers more time to recover before recalling employees. This extension was specifically designed to coincide with the availability of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Between July 20 and August 30, the Employment Standards Branch approved 502 variance applications, covering 9,154 workers with an average approval time of three days or less. Jobs have been protected in sectors including tourism and hospitality, transportation, communication, forestry, entertainment and recreation. 

As BC moves forward during the pandemic, this process will remain in place so employers in need of a variance can still access it in the future. 

Click here for more information on variances. 

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Sarah Visca
Sarah Visca is the Operations Manager at ConnectsUs HR, a company that provides tools & resources to quickly set up a Human Resources department.  
You can contact her here