COVID-19 Updates for Employers and Employees

Information on employment during the COVID-19 situation has been coming fast and furious. Whether you are an employer, an employee or self-employed, there are many new federal and provincial support programs and services now in place. In an attempt to make sense of the “information overload” for non-profit cultural organizations and those working in the cultural sector, we’ve compiled a listing of the key information circulating today. Remember, things are changing quickly, so this list represents a few of the important things to know as of April 1, 2020.

If you are an EMPLOYER:

Federal Information

  • The Canada Emergency Business Account will provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits to help cover operating costs. Organizations should contact their financial institutions to apply for these loans. To qualify, organizations must demonstrate they paid between $50,000 to $1 million in total payroll in 2019. Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of 25 percent (up to $10,000).
  • Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy. The new program offers a wage subsidy of 75% of eligible salary for qualifying small employers, including charities and non-profits, for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020. The new CEWS program originally offered a 75% wage subsidy for those who have lost 30% of revenue, based on the same period last year.  This was difficult for some business, such as start-ups and new businesses, so the government announced today that companies can now compare their lost revenue to what they made in January and February of 2020, and will only need to show a 15 per cent decline in March. 
  • Eligible employers are able to apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy through the Canada Revenue Agency’s My Business Account portal as well as a web-based application. Employers would have to keep records demonstrating their reduction in arm’s-length revenues and remuneration paid to employees.
  • Previously, the Government announced the Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers (TWSE), a 10% wage subsidy for small employers, including non-profits and charities. This program is still available. The subsidy is worth up to $847 per week per employee, with no limit on how much an organization can receive. 
    • TWSE and CEWS and Groups on Admin Centre Payroll: Currently the Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers (TWSE) program is set up to allow an employer to take advantage of withholding 10% of an employee’s wage from their remittance to a maximum of $25,000. The government has also added a new Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) which provides 75% wage subsidy for those who have lost 30% of revenue – which is meant to also be a benefit for nonprofits and self-employed..  For those using the Admin Centre payroll - the Admin Centre only has one payroll account with CRA, making it difficult to make claims for all separate organizations. The Admin Centre is  working with CRA to recognize clients individually for this benefit. In the meantime, Admin Centre payroll will continue to be processed normally and your payroll account will be debited as per the usual methods.
    • Changes to CEWS needed to accommodate non-profits, artists and cultural workers.  Current Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) is not currently designed with artists, or the gig economy, in mind.  The support needed to identify the 30% loss in revenue is unclear for non-profits and artists.  Also, it requires a significant loss of revenue between March 15 to June 6, which is challenging for those who are not on regular salaries and generate revenue sporadically throughout the year.  The government has released a statement that it is aware of the concerns and working with the community to adjust the application requirements. For info on CEWS click here for future updates. For info on TWSE click here.
  • Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) extends T3010 filing deadline: In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the CRA’s Charities Directorate is extending the filing deadline to December 31, 2020, for all charities with a Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return due between March 18, 2020 and December 31, 2020. This will allow charities more time to complete and submit their T3010, recognizing that charities will be focused on deploying their resources to address the effects of the COVID-19 virus situation. Learn more here.
  • Annual Non-Profit Corporations Reporting. The Director of Corporations and Registrar of Co-operatives has suspended the strike off provisions for non-profit corporations, co-operative and new generation co-operative entities. The suspension is meant to assist non-profit corporations, co-operatives, and new generation co-operatives that are not in a position to file annual returns and financial statements at the Corporate Registry due to delays in annual meetings caused by the restrictions and recommendations on public gatherings. In addition, annual return late filing fees for Not-For-Profit corporations and co-operatives will be suspended.  Corporate Registry continues operations, including the acceptance and processing of all customer submissions. Organizations that have completed the necessary activities and are able to submit their annual returns and related filings are encouraged to do so.
  • Imagine Canada advocating government for $8 billion to support charities and non-profits in Canada. More government stimulus is needed to ensure charities and non-profits survive the pandemic, according to Imagine Canada which represents 170,000 organizations in Canada’s social good sector. Based on extensive consultation with sector leaders across Canada, Imagine Canada is projecting that three months of mandated social distancing and the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 will cause charities to lose $9.5 billion and layoff more than 117,000 employees of which the vast majority would be women. Imagine Canada is calling on charities and non-profits to help support these efforts.
  • Charity and Non-profit Law update - Special COVID-19 edition: Carters released the latest law updates for our sector. From performance of contracts to employer obligations and privacy security, this Special COVID-19 edition provides links to key legal concerns for charities and non-profits during this time.
  • Extensions and increases to Canada Summer Jobs. Since most businesses only felt the impact of COVID-19 halfway through the month, the government has also announced temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program. Now, employers who hire summer students can apply for a subsidy of up to 100 per cent to cover the cost, helping create up to 70,000 jobs for Canadians between the ages of 15 and 30. 

Provincial Information

  • Saskatchewan has made changes to the Saskatchewan Employment Act that address what it is calling a “public health emergency”.  Changes include:
    • Public Health Emergency Leave, which allws employees, who are required to isolate themselves or care for someone during a public health emergency, to take a job-protected leave.
    • Public Emergency Layffs allow employers to issue layoffs as part of their response to a public emergency during an order of the chief medical health officer or an emergency declaration by the Government of Saskatchewan.
    • For information on the above or any other Saskatchewan labour questions, visit: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/employment-standards/
  • Provincial Sales Tax: Saskatchewan businesses that are unable to remit their PST due to cash flow concerns will have three-month relief from penalty and interest charges. Businesses that are unable to file their provincial tax return(s) by the due date may submit a request for relief from penalty and interest charges on the return(s) affected. Audit program and compliance activities have been suspended to allow businesses time to focus on the health and safety of their staff and customers, reduce impacts to their business operations, and minimize the spread of the virus through reduced audit travel. For more information call the Saskatchewan tax inquiry line at 1-800-667-6102 or email: SaskTaxInfo@gov.sk.ca
  • Provincial Utilities: All Crown utilities will implement bill-deferral programs allowing a zero-interest bill deferral for up to six months for Saskatchewan customers whose ability to make bill payments may be impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Workers' Compensation Board: Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board (WCB) is waiving premium penalties for employers effective April 1 until June 30, 2020.
  • Sask Government proposing additional aid for business. The provincial government announced today that it was looking at spending additional dollars to support Saskatchewan business, suffering from COVID-19 related impacts, in the form of grants. The draft program, set to come to cabinet this week, will provide $4,000 to qualifying small and medium sized businesses and is targeted at meeting fixed costs in the midst of a cash-flow crunch. Details as the program develops will be announced here.
  • Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment Program: On April 13, the Saskatchewan Government announced this program to provide financial assistance to small businesses in the province that have been ordered to temporarily close or significantly curtail operations during the public emergency period. Financial assistant includes a payment that can be used for any purpose which may include assisting businesses to cover fixed costs or to reopen the business once the pandemic is over. Full information about the program, including eligibility guidelines, can be found here.

If you are an EMPLOYEE:

Federal Information

  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) would provide $2,000 per month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB will apply to wage earners as well as contract workers, self-employed individuals and workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work due to COVID-19. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number.
    • To qualify for the CERB, a worker must have earned at least $5,000 in the last year, seen their income drop to zero as a result of COVID-19, and either not worked — or don’t expect to work — for 14 days in the initial four-week period.
  • Indigenous Community Support Fund: New funds will flow directly to Indigenous communities and groups across the country, providing Indigenous leadership with the flexibility needed as they prepare for and are able to react to the spread of COVID-19. Measures may include, but not limited to: support for Elders and vulnerable community members; measures to address food insecurity; educational and other support for children; mental health assistance and emergency response services; and preparedness measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Employment Insurance: Employment Insurance provides benefits to individuals who lose their jobs to no fault of their own and are unable to find a job, despite being able to work. Apply for Employment Insurance.
  • Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits: The Government of Canada announced new Employment Insurance benefits for those who are sick or quarantined as a result of COVID-19. The waiting period to receive these benefits has been waived and people claiming as a result of COVID-19 do not have to provide a medical certificate. Apply for EI Sickness Benefits.
  • Enhanced Child Care Benefit: A proposed increase to the maximum annual Child Care Benefit payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child.
  • Goods and Services Tax Credit: A proposed one-time special payment for low-and modest-income families, who may require additional help with their finances, through the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC). This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year. Single individuals will receive close to $400, and almost $600 for couples benefiting from this measure.
  • Immigration and Temporary Residents: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has announced new measures to help temporary and permanent residents and applicants affected by COVID-19.
  • Student Loans: To support student and apprentice loan borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced that repayment of Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans will be paused until September 30, 2020 with no interest accrual.
  • Personal Income Tax Deadline Deferral: Deferral of due date for filing personal income tax to June 30, 2020, along with the deferral of any tax amounts due until August 31, without penalty.
  • Mortgage Relief:  All customers who are currently in good standing with their financial institutions and have been impacted by COVID-19 are able to apply for mortgage relief from their bank. Customers will need to answer a few questions and applications are handled on a case-by-case basis. There is no deadline.                                                      

Provincial Information

  • Effective March 19, 2020, Income Assistance has lessened reporting requirements across all of its programs. This means that if a client is late reporting certain information, Income Assistance will still process the payment so that the client receives it on or before April 1, 2020. This is a temporary measure in place to respond to the current situation. If you need assistance, you can apply online at saskatchewan.ca/income-support. If you can't apply online or if you need immediate help, please call the Client Service Centre at 1-866-221-5200 or your local Income Assistance office. Please note response times are affected by the very high number of calls.
  • Job Protection Leave: Amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act will ensure: employees can access unpaid public health emergency leave; removal of the requirement of 13 consecutive weeks of employment with an employer prior to accessing sick leave; and removal of the provision requiring a doctor's note or certificate.
  • Student Loan Repayment Moratorium: Effective immediately, a six-month student loan repayment moratorium has been put in place, mirroring a similar federal provision. This provides individuals with student loans immediate relief, and comes at a $4 million cost to the provincial government.
  • Self-Isolation Support Program: The Self-Isolation Support Program is targeted at Saskatchewan workers, aged 18 and over, who are forced to self-isolate in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, and who are not covered by recent federally-announced employment insurance programs and other supports. Administered by the Ministry of Finance, the program will provide $450 per week, for a maximum of two weeks or $900. To be eligible, residents of Saskatchewan must meet these criteria:
    • they have cntracted COVID-19 or are showing symptoms; OR
    • they have been in cntact with an individual infected with COVID-19; OR
    • they have recently returned frm international travel and have been required to self-isolate.

In addition, workers who are in isolation or likely to be under the previous three criteria are eligible IF:

  • they are not eligible for sick leave or vacation leave from their employer;
  • they not have private insurance covering such disruptions; and
  • they are not covered by other programs such as federal employment insurance that has been updated

If you are SELF-EMPLOYED:

  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) would provide $2,000 per month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB will apply to wage earners as well as contract workers, self-employed individuals and workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work due to COVID-19. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number.
  • I Lost My Gig Survey: Arts, Culture, Heritage, and Tourism workers are asked to complete the I Lost My Gig survey to help track monthly trends moving forward.
  • SASKMUSIC COVID-19 Emergency Financial Relief Fund: In response to COVID-19, SaskMusic has established a new fund to help provide for lost income estimated for the period March 12-April 30 2020. Musicians, sound and/or lighting technicians, publicists, booking agents (specifically for lost commissions) and music teachers may apply. Up to 50% of loss can be applied for, to a total of $1000 per application.
  • If you are currently a grant recipient and need more information contact your funding partners directly.  All funders are currently working with grant recipients to provide solutions.
  • The Saskatchewan Arts Alliance put together a list of other links and resources for self-employed artists that includes:
    • Woodcock Fund Grant – Writers’ Trust of Canada. For writers facing financial crisis in mid-project. Minimum of two books or equivalent published.
    • Actors Fund of Canada - Funding for professionals in the entertainment industry. 
    • Unison Music Fund - Financial aid for musicians
    • Here's where artists and freelancers can find help during the Covid-19 shutdowns: CBC is updating a list f resources, with categories such as: Emergency funding, Grants and Awards, Advocacy for Freelancers, Online Training resources, Health and Mental Health resources, Temporary/Remote Job Opportunities. Many of these postings are for the Toronto region.
    • COVID-19 & Freelance Artists- This is the American/International version of the above resource list (created by the same people).
  • Cultural Human Resource Council Resources: The Cultural Human Council asks self-employed artists and cultural workers to remember: “…you were not asked if your business and chosen art form could be put on hold for a few weeks, it was imposed. Please accept what assistance the government offers: accept the financial support, it is not a handout, it is a safety net and partial restitution. If some are uncomfortable with “free” money, why not just pay it forward by offering some of what you do online, the is no shortage of ways to do so. Schools are going to be closed for a while, think of the positive impact craft tutorials, arts history lessons or performance videos have on morale at home.”

Disclaimer: This article was prepared April 1, 2020 based on information from government and partner websites, and will be updated accordingly. Please contact these organizations directly for updated information.

Where to find RESOURCES AND UPDATES:

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Running a non-profit virtually during a pandemic – April 2