Federal and BC Government Response to COVID-19: Fact Sheet for Employers and Employees

Updated February 1, 2021.

The following Fact Sheet compiles information found on government websites relating to the key financial programs and initiatives that the Canadian and BC governments have implemented in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

A. Federal Government Programs

  1. Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
  2. Temporary Changes to Canada Summer Jobs program
  3. Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)
  4. Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
  5. Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)
  6. Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)
  7. Work-Sharing Program
  8. Employment Insurance 
  9. Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits

As new programs are constantly emerging and existing programs are evolving, we suggest you also visit the Federal government’s website summarizing its COVID-19 Economic Response Plan for the most complete and up-to-date information on Canada-wide programs.

B. BC Government Programs

  1. BC Recovery Benefit 
  2. COVID-19 – Related Leave under BC’s Employment Standards Act (ESA)
  3. New Illness or Injury Leave under the ESA
  4. Temporary Layoff Extension – Online Application Process

We will continue to update this Fact Sheet as new information becomes available.

A. Federal Government Programs

1. Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

As a Canadian employer who has seen a drop in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be eligible for a subsidy to cover part of your employee wages, retroactive to March 15, 2020. This subsidy will enable you to re-hire workers, help prevent further job losses, and ease your business back into normal operations.

The federal government is covering up to 75% of an employee’s wages for qualifying eligible employers, with this subsidy rate in effect until March 13, 2021. The wage subsidy supports you to keep and re-hire your employees and avoid layoffs.

The CEWS is available until June 2021.

Learn more about the CEWS here.

2. Temporary Changes to Canada Summer Jobs program

The federal government is creating up to 120,000 job opportunities for students through the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program.

They also made temporary changes to the CSJ program to allow employers to:

  • a wage subsidy, so that private and public-sector employers can receive up to 75 percent of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee (not-for-profit organizations will continue to receive 100 percent);
  • an extension to the end date for employment to February 26, 2022; and
  • allowing employers to hire staff on a part-time basis.

Find out more here,

3. Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) provides interest-free, partially forgivable, loans of up to $60,000, to small businesses and not-for-profits, that have experienced diminished revenues due to COVID-19 but face ongoing non-deferrable costs, such as rent, utilities, insurance, taxes and wages.

We have recently expanded CEBA to include an additional interest-free $20,000 loan, 50% of which would be forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022.

This means the additional loan effectively increases CEBA loans from the existing $40,000 to $60,000 for eligible businesses, of which a total of $20,000 will be forgiven if the balance of the loan is repaid by December 31, 2022.

Business owners can apply for support until March 31, 2021 through their banks and credit unions.

Find out more here.

4. Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)

The CRB provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for workers who have stopped working or had their income reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19, and who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).

5. Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

The CRSB provides $500 per week for up to a maximum of two weeks, for workers who:

  • Are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19
  • Are self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19
  • have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

6. Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)

The CRCB provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for workers:

  • unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19
  • because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19.

7. Work-Sharing Program

Work-Sharing (WS) is a program that helps employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary decrease in business activity beyond the control of the employer. The program provides Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce their normal working hours and share the available work while their employer recovers. Work-Sharing is an agreement between employers, employees and the Government of Canada.

Effective March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021, and not limited to one specific sector or industry, the Government of Canada is introducing temporary special measures:

  • Extension of the maximum possible duration of an agreement from 38 weeks to 76 weeks
  • Mandatory cooling off period has been waived for employers who have already used the Work-Sharing program so that eligible employers may immediately enter into a new agreement
  • Reduce the previous requirements for a Recovery Plan to a single line of text in the application form
  • Reduce the requirement and expand eligibility to employers affected by accepting business who have been in business for only 1 year rather than 2, and eliminate the burden of having to provide sales/production figures at the same time, and
  • Expand eligibility for staff who are essential to recovery, Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) and non-for-profit organization employers.

Find out more here.

8. Employment Insurance – Temporary Changes

As of September 27, 2020, there are some temporary changes to the EI program to help you access EI benefits. These changes will be in effect for 1 year. Go to EI benefits and leave to find the benefit type that applies to your situation. The following changes could apply to you:

  • a minimum unemployment rate of 13.1% applies to all regions across Canada starting August 9, 2020:
    • if your region’s unemployment rate is higher than 13.1%, we’ll use the higher actual rate to calculate your benefits
  • you only need 120 insured hours to qualify for benefits because you’ll receive a one-time credit of:
    • 300 insured hours if you’re applying for regular benefits
    • 480 insured hours if you’re applying for sickness, maternity, parental or caregiving benefits
  • you’ll receive at least $500 per week before taxes, or $300 per week before taxes for extended parental benefits but you could receive more
  • if you’re applying for sickness benefits, you do not need to submit a medical certificate
  • if you’re a fisher, we’ll look at the earnings from your 2018, 2019 and 2020 summer or winter seasons to determine your benefit rate and establish your claim for the same season
  • if you received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the 52-week period to accumulate insured hours will be extended

9. Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits

Temporary changes have been made to the EI program to help you access EI sickness benefits. The following changes are in effect until September 25, 2021 and could apply to you:

  • the waiting period may be waived
  • you don’t need to get a medical certificate
  • you only need 120 insured hours to qualify for benefits because you’ll get a one-time credit of 480 insured hours to help you meet the required 600 insured hours of work
  • you’ll receive at least $500 per week before taxes but you could receive more
  • if you received the CERB, the 52-week period to accumulate insured hours will be extended

Find out more here.

B. BC Government Programs

1. BC Recovery Benefit

Apply now for the BC Recovery Benefit, a one-time, tax-free payment of up to $1,000 for eligible families and single parents and up to $500 for eligible individuals. You have until June 30, 2021 to apply.

Find out more here.

2.  COVID-19 – Related Leave under BC’s Employment Standards Act (ESA)

The new section 52.12 of the ESA, which came into force on March 23, 2020, allows workers to take to take unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19.

Under section 52.12, employees have a right to an unpaid leave of absence in the following circumstances:

  • the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is acting in accordance with
    • instructions or an order of a medical health officer, or
    • advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse
  • the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with
    • an order of the provincial health officer,
    • an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada),
    • guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, or
    • guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • the employer, due to the employer’s concern about the employee’s exposure to others, has directed the employee not to work
  • the employee is providing care to an “eligible person”, including because of the closure of a school or daycare or similar facility

An “eligible person” includes:

  • a child who is under 19 years of age and under the day-to-day care and control of the employee, when the employee is the parent or guardian of that child, or responsible for day-to-day care of the child under an agreement or court order
  • a child of the employee who is 19 years or older who remains dependent and under the day-to-day care and control of the employee due to illness, disability or other reasons
  • the employee is outside the province and cannot return to BC because of travel or border restrictions

People can take job-protected leave under this provision for as long as the circumstance that requires them to be away from work applies. The leave will be retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in BC. The above are temporary measures that will be repealed when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

3.  New Illness or Injury Leave under the ESA

The provincial government has also implemented changes to the ESA (section 49.1) to provide that employees with 90 consecutive days of employment may take up 3 days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year due to illness or injury.

4. Temporary Layoff Extension – Online Application Process

Employees in British Columbia cannot be laid off for more than 13 weeks in any given 20-week period. If an employee is not recalled to work after 13 weeks, the layoff becomes a termination of employment. Together, employers and employees can apply for a variance to extend a layoff beyond 13 weeks in a 20-week period.

Two time-limited extensions were made to the Employment Standards Act allowing COVID-19 layoffs to last longer than the usual 13 weeks in 20 weeks. These extensions have now expired. Workplaces who wished to extend pre-June 1, 2020 layoffs past August 30, 2020 required a variance.

If your workplace received a variance extending the temporary layoff period and you need to extend it further, you must apply to renew your variance before it expires.

Find out more here.

 

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