Last updated April 14, 2020. We will update blog posts when more information is released.
The Alberta government announced several supports for people impacted financially by COVID-19.
While many of the details about eligibility and application processes haven't been released, here is a summary of the initiatives that may help your employees and your business.
SUPPORT FOR EMPLOYEES
UTILITY PAYMENT HOLIDAY
Electricity and natural gas bill payments can be deferred for the next 90 days. This applies to residential, farm and small commercial customers of any service provider. This program came into effect on March 18, 2020 and will run through June 18, 2020.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
This program is available to Albertans who are experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19. For example, those who have lost their employment or had to leave work to take care of an ill family member.
HOW DO MY EMPLOYEES APPLY?
Advise your employees to call their utility provider to arrange for a 90-day deferral on all payments. They will need their account information. The province advises people to be patient as there may be higher-than-normal call volumes.
WHEN WILL THEY NEED TO PAY?
Customers will still have to pay for their deferred utilities. The Alberta Utilities Commission and the province will work with utility companies to develop a payment system. That way customers can pay back deferred utilities within a reasonable timeframe.
STUDENT LOANS REPAYMENT HOLIDAY
A six-month, interest-free pause on student loan repayments will begin March 30th, 2020 for those who need it. No application is necessary.
All employees, regardless of the amount of time worked, will have their jobs protected if they must self-isolate or are caring for a dependent that must self-isolate. No medical note is required.
EMERGENCY ISOLATION SUPPORT
Update: The Emergency Isolation Support Program is now closed. Click here for more information on the Alberta Emergency Isolation Support.
Changes to the Employment Standards Code allow full and part-time employees to take 14 days of job-protected leave if they are:
- Required to self-isolate
- Caring for a child or dependent adult who is required to self-isolate
To be eligible, employees:
- Are not required to have a medical note
- Do not need to have worked for an employer for 90 days
This leave covers the 14-day self-isolation period recommended by Alberta’s chief medical officer. This leave may be extended if the advice of the chief medical officer changes.
Note: The leave does not apply to self-employed individuals or contractors.
VACATION PAY, LEAVE OR BANKED OVERTIME
Employers and employees may consider using other available leaves should an employee be required to self-isolate.
Employees can request using their vacation pay or banked overtime, but employers are not required to grant the request. Provincial employment rules only require employers to provide vacation pay, vacation leave or pay banked overtime within a year of it being earned.
Employers can request employees voluntarily take vacation leave and/or use their vacation pay or banked overtime but cannot force them to do so under provincial employment rules.
EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS
Employees may consider applying for federal Employment Insurance benefits. EI sickness benefits will provide up to 15 weeks of assistance if a person cannot work due to medical reasons such as self-isolation.
The one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits has been waived by the federal government, along with the requirement for a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.
ACCESS TO CREDIT
Personal customers of ATB Financial can apply to have their loans, lines of credit and mortgage payments deferred for up to six months.
For provincially regulated credit unions, personal and business members will be offered various financial relief solutions to ease their burdens on a case-by-case basis.
SUPPORT FOR EMPLOYERS
Small business customers of ATB Financial can apply for deferrals on loans and lines of credit. They can also apply for additional working capital offerings.
Other businesses and agriculture customers should contact ATB Financial as solutions are being considered for them as well.
CORPORATE INCOME TAX CHANGE
Beginning March 19, 2020, corporate income tax balances and instalment payments can be deferred until August 31, 2020.
Presumably this will be adjusted to September 1, 2020 to match the date of the federal deferrals.
It's estimated this measure will provide Alberta businesses with access to $1.5 billion to help them with their short-term cash flow challenges.
FEDERAL CORPORATE TAX CHANGE
Any income tax return filing due date after March 18, 2020 is deferred until June 1, 2020. Although the CRA’s announcement is not specific on this particular extension, we understand that the CRA’s extension to June 1, 2020 applies to all taxpayers, unless indicated otherwise.
This means any corporation with a year end of September 18th to November 30th has until June 1, 2020 to file. Corporations who have year-ends beyond November 30th still have the same 6-month deadline.
Alberta has agreed to align these due dates to the federal government announcements.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BOARD PREMIUM RELIEF
All private sector employers will have their 2020 WCB premiums deferred to 2021.
If you’re a small-to-medium-sized private sector employee, you will have 50% of your 2020 premiums waived when invoicing resumes in 2021.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR PREMIUM RELIEF?
All private sector employers are eligible. This includes businesses with coverage only in place for business owners and directors (personal coverage), as well as those in voluntary industries with coverage in place on or before March 23, 2020.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE WAIVER OF 50% OF 2020 PREMIUMS?
Any small-and medium-sized private sector employers with $10 million or less in insurable earnings for 2020 will be eligible for the 50% waiver of 2020 premiums.
WHAT IF I ALREADY MADE PAYMENTS TOWARDS MY 2020 COVERAGE?
Employers who have already paid WCB premiums in 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit. They will only be reimbursed for what they have paid towards the 2020 premiums. The 2020 premium balance will then be deferred to next year. No interest charges will apply on unpaid balances for 2020.
HOW DO I ACCESS MY REFUND?
WCB will process refunds automatically or they may contact you to confirm. You do not need to call to request reimbursement.
WHEN WILL MY BUSINESS BE INVOICED FOR 2020 PREMIUMS?
Invoices will be sent out in or after February 2021 and will include the premium balance for 2020 in addition to any new balance owing for 2021.
WHAT ABOUT THE WAIVER OF 50% OF 2020 PREMIUMS?
These premiums will be waived when invoicing resumes in or after February 2021.
HOW WILL MY 2020 PREMIUM WAIVER BE CALCULATED?
Waived premiums for SMEs will be calculated based on 50 per cent of their assessed premiums for 2020. These waivers will be applied when premium invoicing resumes in 2021. It will be based on the actual insurable earnings figure the employer report on the 2020 annual return. You do not need to apply to have your 2020 premiums waived. Eligible employers will have these amounts automatically waived when invoicing resumes in 2020.