Additional financial support for Albertans and employers - March 23, 2020
More relief is on the way for Albertans and Alberta employers.
The government has made three significant decisions that will give Albertans and Alberta employers additional supports as they deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our priority is to keep our province strong while we get through these difficult times together. We’re doing everything we can to support Albertans and Alberta employers through this crisis. That’s why we’re focused on creating tangible savings for households and freeing up necessary cash for businesses to help them through these unprecedented times.”
Jason Kenney, Premier
Education property tax freeze
During a pandemic, Alberta households should not need to worry about paying additional property taxes.
The government will immediately cancel the decision made in Budget 2020 and will freeze education property taxes at last year’s level.
Reversing the 3.4 per cent population and inflation adjustment will save Alberta households and businesses about $87 million in 2020-21, which means $55 million for households and $32 million for employers.
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.
Education property tax deferral for business
When Alberta businesses are operating, they employ Albertans who can support themselves, their families and help keep the economy running. Effective immediately, the government will defer education property tax for businesses for six months.
In the next six months, $458 million in cash will remain with employers to help them pay employees and continue operations.
The government expects municipalities to set education property tax rates as they normally would, but defer collection. Deferred amounts will be repaid in future tax years.
The government encourages commercial landlords to pass on these savings to their tenants through reduced or deferred payments. This will help employers continue to manage their debts, pay their employees and stay in business.
Businesses capable of paying their taxes in full are strongly encouraged to do so. This will assist the province in being able to support Albertans through this pandemic.
“Eliminating the scheduled adjustment of education property taxes and deferring collection of non-residential property taxes will result in savings to Albertans and improved business cash flow. This measure will help Alberta households and businesses during this time – we want to keep Albertans working while we get through these difficult times together.”
Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance
WCB premiums deferral for private sector businesses and support for small and medium businesses
Private sector employers can save money on their WCB premium payments at a time when they need it most. These actions ensure the sustainability of the workers’ compensation system and that injured workers continue to receive the benefits and supports they need to return to work.
Private sector employers will have immediate financial relief by deferring WCB premiums until early 2021, effectively for one year.
Employers who have already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit.
For small and medium businesses, the government will cover 50 per cent of the premium when it is due.
Large employers will also receive a break by having their 2020 WCB premium payments deferred until 2021, at which time their premiums will be due.
Paying 50 per cent of small and medium private sector WCB premiums for 2020 will cost government approximately $350 million.
Premier Jason Kenney has announced the membership of the Economic Recovery Council, created to provide advice which will guide Alberta through the downturn that comes as a result of COVID-19 and the energy price crash.
The council is made up of policy and industry experts who will provide insight and expert advice on how to protect jobs during the economic crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent collapse in energy prices. The council will also focus on strategies for long-term recovery from the crisis, including efforts to accelerate diversification of the Alberta economy.
Corporate income tax balances and instalment payments will be deferred from March 19 until August 31, 2020 to increase employers’ access to cash so they can pay employees, address debts and continue operations.
Utility payment holiday
Farm and commercial customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for the next 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off, regardless of the service provider.
Banks and credit unions
Business members should contact their credit union directly to work out a plan for their personal situation
Small business customers can:
apply for a payment deferral on loans and lines of credit for up to 6 months
access additional working capital
Other businesses and agriculture customers can access support on a one-on-one basis. Further solutions are being considered at this time
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
caring for a child or dependent adult that is required to self-isolate
To be eligible, employees:
will not be 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.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.