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COVID-19 measures implemented by the Canadian and Quebec governments

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Canada Publication March 18, 2020 - 9 PM ET

Since our latest publication on the subject, the Canadian and Quebec governments have announced they will be implementing several measures to help employees and employers deal with the repercussions of COVID-19. This update presents an overview of these measures.

Summary 

Over the last few days, the federal government announced several measures to assist Canadians and businesses by modifying the employment insurance program and providing emergency aid for families and workers. The provincial government, for its part, has announced two measures to date, (1) the Temporary Aid for Workers Program, and (2) a loan system it intends to create to support businesses facing hardship.

Federal measures 

1. Support program to help businesses keep their workers
 

Eligibility

Small businesses, like those eligible to receive small business deductions (SBDs), non-profit organizations and charities may benefit from this support program.

Program

A temporary wage subsidy will be paid to eligible businesses for a period of three months.
 
The subsidy will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. 

Businesses will be able to immediately benefit from this support measure by reducing the income tax withholdings on their employee’s pay.

2. Emergency care benefit

Eligibility

This benefit offers financial support to the following people:

  • Workers, including self-employed workers, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but who do not qualify for employment insurance sickness benefits;
  • Workers, including self-employed workers, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but who do not qualify for employment insurance sickness benefits; and 
  • Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for employment insurance or not.

Program

People who qualify to receive emergency care benefits may receive up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. Applicants will need to attest that they meet the eligibility requirements and must renew their attestation of eligibility every two weeks.
 
Applicants may select one of the three channels to apply for the benefit:

  • by accessing it on their CRA MyAccount secure portal;
  • by accessing it from their secure My Service Canada Account; or
  • by calling a toll-free number equipped with an automated application process. This number has not yet been confirmed by federal government authorities. 

Applications for benefits will be available starting in April 2020. 

3. Emergency support benefit

Eligibility

This benefit will provide support for workers who are not eligible for employment insurance and who are facing unemployment or whose work hours have been reduced due to COVID-19.
 
Program

A benefit similar to employment insurance benefits may be paid to persons who are eligible to receive emergency support.

Details on the mechanism for filing an application for benefits will be available shortly. We will keep you apprised of all developments. 

4. Change to the employment insurance plan

Faster and easier eligibility for employees in quarantine or facing hardship due to the outbreak of COVID-19

To assist Canadians affected by COVID-19 and placed in quarantine, Service Canada is adopting the following support measures:

  • the one-week waiting period for employment insurance sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantined so that they can be paid for the first week of their claim;
  • a new dedicated toll-free phone number will be established for information requests and dedicated to the COVID-19 situation: 1-833-381-2725;
  • priority treatment will be given to applications for employment insurance sickness benefits from clients in quarantine;
  • people claiming employment insurance sickness benefits due to quarantine will not have to provide a medical certificate; and
  • people who cannot complete their claim for employment insurance sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their employment insurance claim backdated to cover the period in which they were unable to apply.

These benefits normally granted for sickness can be paid for a period of up to 15 weeks.

Adjustments to the Work-Sharing Program
 

Special measures implemented by the federal government have been effective since March 15, 2020, and will be until March 14, 2021, to help businesses faced with a downturn in business due to COVID-19. These special measures can be summarized as follows:

  • the maximum duration of a Work-Sharing agreement is now extended to 76 weeks (initially 38 weeks);
  • the mandatory waiting period between Work-Sharing agreement applications has been waived, so that an employer with a recently expired agreement may immediately apply for a new agreement; and
  • the federal government has announced its intention to relax the recovery plan requirements in connection with the Work-Sharing agreement. However, the details related to this change in recovery plan requirements are not yet known.

For more detailed information on the establishment and implementation of a Work-Sharing program (including the supporting documentation with an application), we invite you to consult the Government of Canada website dedicated to this purpose: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/work-sharing.html.

Provincial measures

1. Temporary help for workers program

Eligibility

The program is intended for workers 18 years and older who:

  • have contracted the virus or exhibit symptoms;
  • have been in contact with an infected person; or
  • are returning from outside the country.

Workers are eligible:

  • if they are not compensated by their employer;
  • if they do not have private insurance; and
  • if they are not covered by government programs, in particular Employment Insurance provided by the federal government.

Note that the request for isolation must be ordered by the Canadian government, the Quebec government or another responsible entity (a term that has not yet been defined).

Program

Those eligible will receive a tax-free amount of $573 per week, for a period of 14 days of isolation or 28 days if their health status justifies it. 

Financial assistance ends when:

  • the financial assistance has been paid in full; or
  • the beneficiary has failed to comply with one of the obligations.

For more information in line with the TAWP, we invite you to consult the Quebec government website.

2. Loans for troubled businesses 

The Quebec government announced its intention to introduce a lending program for businesses, a portion of which could result in direct financial assistance. 

The details related to this program have not yet been released and its contents will soon be disclosed by the Quebec government authorities.



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