Alberta's Response to COVID-19

Alberta's Response to COVID-19

3/19/2020
Alberta's Response to COVID-19

Alberta

On March 18, 2020, the Alberta Government announced a $50 million investment in Albertans affected by COVID-19.

The Alberta Government COVID-19 Economic Response Plan for Albertans and employers and employees can be found here.

Income and Support for Individuals

Emergency Isolation Support

The Government of Alberta's Emergency Isolation Support program is now closed.

This was a temporary program to provide one-time funding until the Government of Canada announced its own support program. The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is now available.

Utility Payment Holiday

Residential customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments until June 18, 2020 to ensure no one will be cut off, regardless of the service provider. No Albertan can be cut off from these services or see their services reduced during this period.

Eligibility

You are eligible if you are experiencing financial hardship and cannot make your regular payments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, you:

  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • have been directed by health authorities to self-isolate
  • have lost your job
  • are taking care of a family member

This applies to bills for residential, farm, and small commercial:

  • electricity consumers, who consume less than 250,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year
  • natural gas consumers, who consume less than 2,500 gigajoules per year

Albertans who are able to pay their utilities are strongly encouraged to do so to allow greater support for those in need.

Albertans in arrears or behind in payments before the deferral program launched on March 18 are also eligible for a deferral.

How to defer utility payments

To arrange for a deferral and repayment plan, contact your natural gas or electricity provider directly.

You can sign up for the deferral at any time; however, the deferral ends on June 18, 2020. Starting June 19, the agreed upon repayment plan will be implemented.

In situations where rent and utilities are combined, contact your landlord directly to discuss the circumstances.

Repayment

Payments will be required at the end of the deferral period, but you will not be required to pay for the entirety of the deferral on June 18.

Contact your utility provider to discuss repayment plan options.

In addition to the agreed repayment plan, consumers may:

  • put down additional payments towards their balance
  • pay one month and defer the next during the period between March 18 – June 18
  • make changes or amendments to a payment schedule – including automatic payments

For support in negotiating a repayment plan that fits your budget or in resolving any service or billing issue, contact the Utilities Consumer Advocate.

For Utility Providers

All providers are affected by the utility deferral program, including:

  • competitive retailers
  • regulated rate option providers for electricity
  • default rate providers for natural gas
  • rural electrification associations
  • gas cooperatives
  • the City of Medicine Hat

The utility payment deferral applies to all customers, including those eligible for the Regulated Rate Option or Default Gas Supply.

Government and the Alberta Utilities Commission will work with utility companies to develop approaches for repayments that will help consumers pay back their deferred utilities within a reasonable time period.

Education Property Tax Freeze
The Government will immediately freeze education property taxes at last year’s level — reversing the 3.4% population and inflation increase added in Budget 2020  The Government expects that Albertans and Alberta businesses will fully realize these savings and that municipal property tax levels will not be increased as a result of the lower provincial education property tax levels.
Student Loan Payment Deferrals

A six-month, interest free, suspension on Alberta student loan payments for all Albertans in the process of repaying these loans has been implemented.

  • Alberta Student Loan repayments will be paused for six months, beginning March 30, 2020.
  • Students do not need to apply for the repayment pause.
  • Borrowers may continue making payments during this period if they choose and this will not affect their eligibility to receive the benefit.
Banks and Credit Unions

ATB financial customers

Personal banking customers can apply for a deferral on their ATB loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for up to six months.

Alberta Credit Unions

Credit union members will have access to a variety of programs and solutions designed to ease difficulties with loan payments and short-term cash flow.

Contact your credit union to work out a plan for your personal situation.

Support for Businesses

Business Link

Talk to a small business advisor at Business Link to get free advice, coaching and information on COVID-19 resources and supports.

Submit your question online or contact them directly:

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (open Monday to Friday, closed weekends and statutory holidays)

Phone: (780) 422 7722

Toll free: 1 (800) 272 9675 (Canada only)

TTY: 1 (800) 457 8466 (For the deaf or hard of hearing)

Corporate Income Tax Changes

Corporate income tax balances and instalment payments coming due between March 18 and August 31, 2020 are deferred until August 31, 2020. 

Due dates for filing corporate income tax returns due after March 18, 2020 and before June 1, 2020 have been extended to June 1, 2020.

Education Property Tax Deferral 

Education property tax rates will be frozen at last year’s level – reversing the 3.4% population and inflation increase added in Budget 2020.

Collection of non-residential education property tax for businesses will be deferred for six months, or both municipal and education property tax are deferred for a shorter time that is of equivalent benefit.

Municipalities are expected to set education property tax rates as they normally would, but defer collection.

Commercial landlords are encouraged to pass savings on to their tenants through reduced or deferred payments to help employers pay their employees and stay in business.

Businesses capable of paying their taxes in full are encouraged to do to so. This will assist the province in supporting Albertans through the pandemic.

Taxpayers should contact their municipality directly for information for details on their municipality’s approach to education property tax deferrals.

WCB Premiums Deferral 

Small, medium, and large private sector employers can defer WCB premium payments until 2021.

  • For small and medium businesses, the government will cover 50% of the 2020 premium when it is due in 2021.
  • Large employers will have their 2020 WCB premium payments deferred until 2021, at which time their premiums will be due.

Employers who have already paid WCB premiums in 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit.

For more information on impacts on WCB download the WCB: COVID-19 Employer Fact Sheet

Utility Payment Holiday

Residential, farm, and small commercial customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments until June 18, 2020, to ensure no one will be cut off regardless of the service provider.

Call your utility provider directly to arrange for deferral on all payments until June 18, 2020.

Tourism Levy Deferral

Hotels and other lodging providers can delay paying the tourism levy until August 31 for amounts that become due to government on or after March 27, 2020. Payments deferred until August 31 will not be subject to penalties or interest.

Hotels and other lodging providers are still expected to file returns, as required by legislation, and must collect the tourism levy from guests staying at their properties during this period.

Banks and Credit Unions

Credit Unions

Business members should contact their credit union directly to work out a plan for their personal situation

ATB Financial

ATB small business customers can:

  • Apply for a payment deferral on loans and lines of credit for up to six months
  • Access additional working capital for ATB customers

Other ATB business and agriculture customers can access support on a one-on-one basis.

Further solutions are being considered at this time.

Business Continuity Plans

Employers should consider their business continuity plans and how COVID-19 could impact their workplace. To prepare, make plans to:

  • protect employees;
  • limit spread in workplaces;
  • ensure continuity of critical services if staff are ill or self-isolating;
  • explore alternate working arrangements, such as:
  • working from home or remotely, and
  • doing work that doesn't require contact with other people.

Find supports in creating your business continuity plan here.

Employment Standards

Temporary Workplace Rules

Temporary workplace rules are in effect as of March 17, 2020, to help employers and employees manage rapidly changing conditions. These changes will be in place as long as the government determines they are no longer needed and the public health emergency order remains.

The Alberta Government is:

  • Removing the 24-hour written notice requirement for shift changes.
  • Removing the requirement for two-weeks’ notice for changes to work schedules for those under an averaging agreement.
  • Removing the employer requirement to provide group termination notice to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are being terminated.
  • Individual termination entitlements remain in effect.
  • Employers must still give group termination notices to the Minister of Labour and Immigration as soon as it is practical.
  • Increasing the maximum time for temporary layoffs from 60 days to 120 days
  • This change is retroactive for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 that occurred on or after March 17, 2020.
  • Streamlining approvals for modifying employment standards (variances and exemptions) related to COVID-19.
Job-Protected Leave

Changes to the Employment Standards Code will allow full and part-time employees to take 14 days of job-protected leave if they are required to self-isolate, or caring for a child or dependent adult that is required to self-isolate.

 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.
  • May be extended if the advice of the chief medical officer changes.
  • 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 which now allow up to 15 weeks of assistance if a person cannot work due to medical reasons such as self-isolation or self-quarantine.  Furthermore, the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits has been waived by the federal government.

Contact Crowe MacKay LLP Today