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COVID-19

Benefit to COVID-19 impacted workers may be model for future: Qualtrough

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OTTAWA — The newly created benefit for workers whose livelihoods are affected by COVID-19 may be a model for how the federal government helps unemployed Canadians in the future, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said Thursday.

Dubbed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the $2,000-a-month taxable benefit will be available to any worker who earned $5,000 in the previous year and whose income drops to zero due to COVID-19.

Qualtrough says the government opted for the single benefit because the decades-old employment insurance system wasn’t designed to handle an economic shock where millions of workers wouldn’t qualify for assistance.

Funded outside the EI system, the new benefit has pushed direct financial aid in the economic package to $52 billion, out of the $107 billion overall total.

Qualtrough said close to 10 per cent of EI-eligible workers have applied for help in just over a week and the labour crunch is likely to get worse.

That works out to approximately 1.5 million workers.

But there are still more than five million workers — or almost one-quarter of the overall Canadian workforce — who aren’t eligible for EI, including because they may be self-employed, a gig worker, or don’t have enough qualifying hours.

“What we’re going to show through the CERB is that we can actually have a really straightforward income-support system at the federal level,” Qualtrough said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.

“This could be the impetus to really, radically simplify how people access income support from the federal government.”

That’s a discussion her department has been having for some time, and the pandemic will fuel those talks, she said, but it’s a conversation that won’t be settled quickly.

Instead, Qualtrough said the government is focused on the labour situation right now — one she warned would get worse before it improves.

With the benefit about to be introduced, the government warned Thursday of a text scam that may be praying on concerned workers by asking them to reply or click on a link to get the CERB, which isn’t officially available yet.

“I want to remind everyone that the government’s website is the best place to find reliable information on everything we’re doing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Trying to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus has forced governments to order businesses closed and companies to ask employees to work from home. The uncertainty has many small- and medium-sized businesses wondering if they’ll reopen once the economic storm has passed.

An analysis published Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that nearly two millions workers are at the greatest risk of being laid off by the end of the month. If three-quarters of those workers lost their jobs by March 31, the national unemployment rate would rise to 13.9 per cent — the worst it’s been in 70 years, wrote David Macdonald, the centre’s senior economist.

The government is urging any worker eligible for EI who loses their job due to COVID-19 to apply now for help. And for those who don’t qualify, Qualtrough said they should sign up for an online account through the Canada Revenue Agency to prepare for the new benefit being made available next month.

To qualify, an affected worker will have to reside in Canada and have earned $5,000 in the previous 12 months — including new parents who earned EI parental benefits —and have had their income dried up because of COVID-19. An online portal is supposed to be up on April 6, with the first automatic payments arriving 10 days after people apply.

Those who receive the benefit will have to reaffirm their eligibility every four weeks.

The benefit will be taxed, like EI payments, and the government will square up any issues during tax time next year.

“If we find out that you weren’t truthful or that you had income you didn’t declare, that will actually be swept up at the back end,” Qualtrough said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2020.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Calgary blocks traffic lanes to help pathway users maintain two-metre separation

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CALGARY — Fans of a decision by Calgary officials to block off some traffic lanes to give pedestrians and cyclists extra room for social distancing hope others cities will follow suit.

Starting Saturday along certain Calgary sidewalks and pathways with larger volumes of pedestrian traffic, crews have placed pylons and other barricades onto a lane of adjacent roadway for people to step onto so they can safely maintain a two-metre separation from others.

“We’re not encouraging people to go and hang around these places, but what we have done is closed a couple of lanes, again in high-pedestrian-centric locations, just to allow people to have more space between them if they are walking,” explained Sean Somers with the city’s transportation department.

Officials insist that people stay home as much as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak, and say those who must go out should stay two metres away from others.

But many walkways aren’t wide enough to enable people to easily maintain that distance.

Vehicle use appears to be down in Calgary since many people are now working from home, Somers said, so there isn’t as much traffic on the roads.

“Last week I was going in to the emergency operations centre and it took me 15 minutes. I would say normally it’s double that to get there from my house,” Somers said, noting that the idea is being treated a pilot project and will be evaluated to see how well it works.

Greg Glatz, a commuter cyclist in Calgary, said he thinks the newly created bike and pedestrian lanes are fantastic. Even during a late evening ride on Saturday he noticed people on bikes and on foot using one that’s downtown on Memorial Drive near the Bow River.

But he said there was another path during his ride, along Crescent Road, that he said could have used one, where a large number of pedestrians were enjoying the sunset.

“There were eight people walking across the path side-by-side, and someone asked them to make some space, and they did a fake sneeze,” Glatz said. “I would love to see it done up there.”

Kimberley Nelson, who represents Alberta on the Velo Canada Bikes board, said she and other cycling advocates began suggesting the idea of closing some traffic lanes a week ago. Since Calgary announced late last week that it would do it, she said councillors in some other Canadian cities are also advocating for it on social media.

Nelson noted many doctors in Calgary cycle to work.

“Being able to ensure they’re able to do so in a safe manner is really important right now,” Nelson said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.

— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton.

The Canadian Press

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Central Alberta

2 Red Deer people have recovered from COVID-19 – Central Alberta update (March 29)

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Information from covid19stats.alberta.ca

The number of confirmed cases as of Sunday, March 29 show 46 cases of COVID-19 in Central Alberta.

For the first time the number of cases in Red Deer has actually gone down over the previous 24 hours, meaning 2 people (from Red Deer – East) have recovered.

Red Deer has 17 cases of COVID-19.

  • Red Deer – East has 12
  • Red Deer – South West has 4
  • Red Deer – North West has 1

Here’s the breakdown in the Central Zone.

  • Red Deer – 17
  • Red Deer County – 7
  • Olds – 2
  • Innisfail – 1
  • Lacombe – 2
  • Ponoka – 1
  • Stettler County – 1
  • Three Hills / Highway 21 – 1
  • Wetaskiwin County – 8
  • Camrose & County – 2
  • Tofield – 1
  • Vegreville / Winburn County – 1
  • Vermilion River County – 2

 

 

In this graph we can see there are still no COVID-19 cases in people younger than 20 years old in Central Alberta.

There could be young people carrying the virus, but none have been tested and confirmed positive.

And below you can see the latest numbers from all regions of Alberta

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march, 2020

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