Updates from the Federal and Provincial Governments

Earlier today, the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta provided further details with respect to the financial assistance measures available to Albertans through the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Government of Canada has announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which combines the previously announced support programs (the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit) into one benefit program.

The Government of Alberta, on the other hand, has opened applications to the Emergency Isolation Benefit which is designed to provide Albertans with immediate relief until the federal programs become available.

Further details on each announcement are included below:

Federal Announcement Update

The Government of Canada is boosting the amount of direct aid to Canadians and modifying the program that will serve as the vehicle to provide this assistance.

Direct assistance to Canadians and businesses will now be $52 billion, an increase from last week’s announcement of $27 billion. Coupled with tax deferrals, the overall stimulus package now stands at $107 billion.

The Government will also institute the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which amalgamates two COVID response benefits announced last week. The benefit consists of:

  • $2,000/month for four months.
  • People who have lost their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can apply, including workers, self-employed, caregivers now having to care for children and loved ones, and those in quarantine, self-isolation, or sick from the coronavirus.
  • All Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether eligible or not, may apply.
  • Those who are already on EI Regular or Sickness benefits should not apply to the CERB. Similarly, those who have applied and are awaiting EI benefits, need not reapply to the CERB.
  • If the EI benefits end before October 3, 2020 they could apply to the CERB. This means the EI Benefits and the CERB benefits could be combined to be received consecutively at some point, depending on the individual situation of the applicant.
  • Those who access CERB first may then apply to EI at the end of the 16-weeks (4 months) of the CERB.
  • The CERB would be paid every four weeks and it will be available within 10 days of application.
  • The portal to apply for the CERB will open in April.

The emergency COVID-19 bill received royal assent today, March 25, 2020. Other parts of the bill include:

  • During those six months, the new spending authority is limited to specific categories including income support for Canadians, the purchase of medical supplies, public health-related programs, covering expenses incurred by the government and helping provinces and territories pay for emergency response needs.
  • Provinces and territories are also receiving an extra $500 million in federal funding.
  • Morneau is given some new powers, including the ability to authorize the borrowing of money without Parliament's approval if it is needed for legislatively approved payments or to "maintain the efficiency of the financial system in Canada." Valid through the end of September.

The Government is redeploying civil servants to the EI and the Emergency Benefit to address the high demand; almost 1 million people have applied for EI. Since Monday, 140,000 claims have been processed.

Provincial Announcement Update

The Provincial government has unveiled the Emergency Isolation Benefit, which is a one-time emergency isolation support payment.

The application for these benefits is now online. Click here for further information.

Albertans are eligible for the emergency isolation support program if they:

  • have experienced total or significant loss of income and are not receiving compensation from any other source because you:
    • have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • have been directed by health authorities (Health Link 811) to self-isolate
    • are the sole caregiver of a dependent who is in self-isolation

Albertans are not eligible for this program if they:

  • were not working immediately before they were advised to self-isolate
  • can work from home
  • are not experiencing a significant loss of income as a result of self-isolation
  • are currently collecting other forms of income support or employer benefits while self-isolated, such as:
  • are staying home to care for a dependent who is home for a reason other than self-isolation
  • reside outside of Alberta

Albertans who are not eligible for this program are still able to access the other supports available, such as:

  • Utility payment deferral
  • Student loans repayment deferral
  • Deferrals on ATB lines of credit and mortgages for up to 6 months
  • Deferrals on 2019 tax returns until June 1, 2020

In addition, for McLennan Ross’ summary of measures previously announced by the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta on March 18 and 19, 2020, respectively, please click here.