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COVID-19

The Federal COVID-19 Economic Response Plan

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12 minute read

Finance Minister Bill Morneau

The Government of Canada is taking strong and quick action to protect our economy, and the health, safety, and jobs of all Canadians during the global COVID-19 outbreak.

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced a new set of economic measures to help stabilize the economy and help Canadians affected by the impacts of this challenging period.

These measures, delivered as part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy. Combined, this $82 billion in support represents more than 3 per cent of Canada’s GDP. This wide-ranging support will help ensure Canadians can pay for rent and groceries, and help businesses continue to pay their employees and their bills during this time of uncertainty.

This plan builds on coordinated action taken since the beginning of this outbreak, including the more than $1 billion COVID-19 Response Fund, which provided funding to provinces and territories to strengthen critical health care systems. It represents over $500 billion in credit and liquidity support for people and businesses through cooperation between financial Crown corporations, the Bank of Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), and commercial lenders to ensure businesses can continue to operate.

The actions announced today are part of Canada’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19. As a first step, this plan aims to stabilize our economy through targeted measures to address immediate challenges faced by workers and businesses alike. It will help ensure that workers have the money they need while they are sick or in isolation, or due to loss of work or a significant reduction in work income, and help support people and businesses experiencing financial hardship because of the outbreak.

Canadians should not make health decisions based on their financial needs. As the situation continues to evolve, further measures will be announced to support Canadians, stimulate the economy, and protect peoples’ jobs and livelihoods..

Support for workers

Canadians should not have to worry about paying their rent or mortgage or buying groceries because of the COVID-19 crisis. To support workers and their families, the Government of Canada is taking action to:

  • Provide additional assistance to families with children by temporarily boosting Canada Child Benefit payments. This measure would deliver almost $2 billion in extra support.
  • Introduce an Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks to provide income support to workers who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave. This measure could provide up to $10 billion to Canadians, and includes:
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are sick, quarantined, or who have been directed to self-isolate but do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent or other dependents who are sick, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
  • EI-eligible and non EI-eligible working parents who must stay home without pay because of children who are sick or who need additional care because of school closures.
  • Introduce an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the Canada Revenue Agency to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
  • Provide additional assistance to individuals and families with low and modest incomes with a special top-up payment under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit. This measure would inject $5.5 billion in the economy.
  • Waive, for a minimum of six months, the mandatory one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits for workers in imposed quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate, as announced on March 11.
  • Waive the requirement for a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.
  • Extend the tax filing deadline for individuals to June 1, and allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act.  No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. This measure will result in households having more money available during this period.
  • Provide eligible small businesses a 10 per cent wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Employers benefiting from this measure would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as not-for-profit organisations and charities.  This will help employers keep people on their payroll and help Canadians keep their jobs.
  • Provide increased flexibility to lenders to defer mortgage payments on homeowner government-insured mortgage loans to borrowers who may be experiencing financial difficulties related to the outbreak. Insurers will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately.

In addition, to provide targeted support for vulnerable groups, the Government is investing to:

  • Reduce minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25 per cent for 2020 in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings.
  • Implement a six-month, interest-free, moratorium on Canada Student Loan payments for all individuals who are in the process of repaying these loans.
  • Provide $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund, to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.
  • Support women and children fleeing violence by providing up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. This includes funding for facilities in Indigenous communities.
  • Provide an additional $157.5 million to address the needs of Canadians experiencing homelessness through the Reaching Home program.

Support for businesses

In the face of an uncertain economic situation and tightening credit conditions, the Government is taking action to help affected businesses. To support Canadian businesses and help them retain their workers during this difficult time, the Government is announcing measures to:

  • Allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. This measure will result in businesses having more money available during this period.
  • Increase the credit available to small, medium, and large Canadian businesses. As announced on March 13, a new Business Credit Availability Program will provide more than $10 billion of additional support to businesses experiencing cash flow challenges through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. The Government is ready to provide more capital through these financial Crown corporations.
  • Further expand Export Development Canada’s ability to provide support to domestic businesses.
  • Provide flexibility on the Canada Account limit, to allow the Government to provide additional support to Canadian businesses, when deemed to be in the national interest, to deal with exceptional circumstances.
  • Augment credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector through Farm Credit Canada.
  • Launch an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program to purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). As announced on March 16, this will provide stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders and support continued lending to Canadian businesses and consumers. CMHC stands ready to further support liquidity and the stability of the financial markets through its mortgage funding programs as necessary. The Government will enable these measures by raising CMHC’s legislative limits to guarantee securities and insure mortgages by $150 billion each.

The six largest financial institutions in Canada have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges, such as pay disruption due to COVID-19, childcare disruption due to school or daycare closures, or those suffering from COVID-19. As a first step, this support will include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products. The Government of Canada will continue to monitor evolving economic conditions and seek greater relief measures should it be necessary.

In order to move forward with implementing these new measures needed to provide timely support for Canadians and to ensure the Government has every tool at its disposal to address potential challenges that may arise, the Government intends to introduce special legislation and seek the approval of Parliament.

The Government of Canada will continue to take further action as required to prioritize the health and safety of Canadians, stabilize the economy, and mitigate the economic impact of this pandemic.

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Alberta

Preparing for the Return of the Calgary Winter at the Mustard Seed

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As Calgary prepares for the descent back into winter, the reliance on nonprofit organizations throughout the city is set to increase as the most vulnerable members of the community turn to support programs and shelters to weather the cold months. 

The Mustard Seed is a Christian-faith based organization that values transparency, accountability, respect, communication and holistic innovation. As one of Calgary’s oldest homeless relief organizations, The Mustard Seed has been operating in the city for nearly 40 years. 

By offering a range of products and services to compromised community members in Calgary and across western Canada, The Mustard Seed’s ultimate vision is to eliminate factors that contribute to homelessness and poverty. The organization pursues this goal every day by “providing basic needs (food, clothing and hygiene items), education, employment programs, health and wellness services, spiritual care, housing, and emergency shelter.” 

Founded in 1984 by Pat Nixon, who had experienced homelessness himself as a teenager, The Mustard Seed began as a small drop-in coffee shop. From there, it expanded into a downtown house, and then officially opened as a shelter on 11 Ave SE in 1992. Beginning with just 80 mats and a single location in ‘92, The Mustard Seed now operates five different locations across Calgary, and has the capacity to house 370 adults every night at their Foothills Shelter location. According to Dave Conrad, Community Engagement Manager for the Mustard Seed, the shelter serves close to 315,000 meals every year, and often hits overnight capacity in the winter months, averaging 328 individuals per night in 2019.

In addition to the Foothills Shelter, the Mustard Seed also operates the Downtown Support Centre, the Wellness Centre, the Neighbour Centre, and the Resource Sorting Centre. Across these 5 locations, The Mustard Seed is able to provide a series of advocacy, health and wellness, transportation, employment and spiritual care services to those who need them most. 

The Mustard Seed is also responsible for the 1010 Centre, Canada’s largest permanent supportive housing facility, which provides affordable, sustainable housing options in the city of Calgary. They have a total of 285 affordable housing units among four locations: 224 units in the 1010 Centre, 30 units in the Downtown Support Centre, and 31 units in two external housing units. 

Providing aid and relief, and fulfilling the most basic human needs as well as educational, employment and social needs for those who require it most is no small task. Issues such as homelessness and poverty pay no attention to a pandemic, and COVID-19 has had a major impact on operations at the Mustard Seed and organizations similar. 

In order to maintain compliance with COVID-19 health and safety mandates, the capacity of the Mustard Seed to house individuals has been reduced from 370 at one location to 238 between two locations, which will pose a unique challenge heading into winter. However, Conrad says they are committed to making it work, whatever it takes. “As the winter comes, we tend to see our numbers go up, which will create some unique challenges with the pandemic this year” he says, “but we will continue to work with the community and collaborate with other organizations to ensure that everyone who needs a bed, has a bed.” 

Despite the new and ongoing challenges of 2020, the support from the public during the pandemic has been extraordinary, says Conrad. ““We have all been incredibly humbled by the public response over the course of all this,” he says, “we are so encouraged by the outpouring of support from our community.”

Heading back into winter, some of the most pressing needs for The Mustard Seed currently include warm clothes and new underwear, and the organization is also encouraging people to explore available opportunities to return to volunteering. 

For more information about The Mustard Seed, visit https://theseed.ca

To find out how you can contribute and for a comprehensive list of items urgently needed by the Mustard Seed, check https://theseed.ca/urgent-items/

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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Alberta

Your event has been CANCELLED

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Your Event Has Been Cancelled

By Ilan Cooley

The live event industry is in serious trouble. It was the first sector to go dark due to the pandemic, and it is expected to be the last to be allowed back to work.

The people behind the scenes of your favourite events are the mavericks and risk takers you likely don’t know about. They create the events that make you smile until your face hurts, cheer until you lose your voice, and dance until you can’t stand up. They make the magic that fills your social feeds, and the moments that live in your memories.

You may have gotten an email saying “your event has been cancelled” – they lost their livelihood.

“People don’t understand how bullseye targeted this virus was at our industry,” says Jon Beckett, owner of Production World. “It was a 100% bullseye. You couldn’t hit it more dead centre. It’s not like it hurt us – it took it away. People don’t understand that until you talk to them about your industry.”

Production World Staff

Beckett’s company used to employ 50 people. Having lost more than 200 events so far, they have laid off 35 people. Their 25,000 square foot warehouse contains almost seven million dollars worth of staging, lighting and other production equipment.

“We have to house that inventory,” he says. “It is not like we can sell it.”

Similarly, Fort Saskatchewan based Superior Show Service has two separate warehouses full of rental items nobody currently needs, plus tax bills and insurance due. As a 35-year-old family-run event rental company, they cater to tradeshows and large events. Some of the 35 staff they laid off in March have been hired back after accessing relief programs, but with more than 80 events already cancelled, owner Chris Sisson worries about the future.

“It feels like the carpet kicked out from under you,” he says. “I’ve always been able to provide for a great number of families, not just my own, and today I have no idea how to provide for my own. I have been in this industry my entire life, and now I have no idea what to do. It is truly humbling and dumbfounding.”

Chris Sisson of Superior Show Service

Event promoter Mike Andersson prefers not to dwell on what has been lost, instead focusing on building something consumers will want to come back to when it is over. He knows how to manage complex logistics and bring large groups of people together. Even when faced with severe restrictions for events, his company, Trixstar, was busy creating pandemic proof event manifestos, and blue-sky concepts for safe gatherings.

“When everything came crashing down we were putting up material about what events look like after this, and showing some optimism,” he says. “It is important to get people together and to celebrate.” He admits there are good days and bad days. “It is a rollercoaster of emotions,” he says. “Obviously we feel terrible. It affects us, but it affects so many companies. From the security companies, to the ticketing companies, to the tent company, to the production company – all those people are affected.”

Event photographer Dale MacMillan also worries about the people behind the scenes. He has lost more than 100 days of shooting for professional sporting events, large music events, festivals and fairs, which makes up about 60% of his income, and he knows others are in the same situation.

Dale MacMilon takes event photos like this shot of Trixstar

“There’s a guy sitting out there with probably a quarter section of land and he’s probably got 5500 porta potties that are out at ten to 20 events throughout the month, and he is affected tremendously,” says MacMillan. “I see some of the guys that are usually in the business of trucking the machinery to set up the fairs and festivals that are delivering for Amazon now. I look at all of those people who work the booths to break plates. They are not working at all. How else is a guy who owns a plate breaking booth going to get any other business?”

Even artists like Clayton Bellamy are wondering how to pay their bills. As a successful singer/songwriter and member of Canada’s top country band, The Road Hammers, he wishes the gold records on his wall represented a decent living, but admits there is no money to be made without touring. With up to 90% of his income derived from live shows, and almost no revenue from music streaming, he says he will do whatever it takes to feed his family.

“Obviously I have kids and that comes first before anything,” he says. “The main thing to do is to find work.” He also knows lack of touring impacts others. “Our band employs a lot of people. It is not just me on the stage – it is the tour manager, and the person in the office answering the phones at the management company, and the manager. We help employ 50 people. If you think about the industry as a whole, there are a lot of people relying on that trickle-down.”

Clayton Bellamy

Beckett says the model for live events has changed forever.

“If we are going to collapse, then we are going to give it all we can. Right now, we are optimistic that we can somehow find ways to juggle.”

Production World is streaming virtual events to online audiences, and delivering reimagined AHS compliant live events with a mobile stage, video wall, and in-car audio for things like graduations, weddings, movies, drive in music events, and even funerals. They are retrofitting churches for virtual services, and recording content to deliver music and sermons to parishioners.

Sisson suggests his industry should collaborate with government and other industry professionals to develop a plan, like doing events by the hour to control occupancy counts, disinfecting surfaces, contact tracing and testing, and utilizing existing technologies like temperature checks and facial recognition.

“I will be ashamed of our industry if we cannot have something that is approved and a way to conduct ourselves by October,” he says. “At the end of the day there are a lot of livelihoods that need to get looked after.”

MacMillan says the advice his parents gave him to plan for a rainy day was valid. He will get creative with other revenue sources and try to take advantage of programs and subsidies.

“If it helps you along one more month, it is one more month that you can make it until things open up again.”

Bellamy tries to keep his mental health in check by maintaining a rigorous schedule of practicing, writing, and working on existing projects. He plans to finish a new record so he can hit the ground running when touring resumes.

“Right now, I have no income,” he says. “I don’t have a safety net. I don’t have a plan B.”

He says if people want to support their favourite artists they should buy music and merchandise directly, like and share posts and music on social media, and send a letter to the government to help change laws that impact fair pay for artists’ streaming rights.

A return to “normal” is a long way off, and no matter when life starts to feel unrestricted again the world will be altered, and things will be different. Behind the scenes, the event industry not just trying to reinvent itself, it is fighting for survival.

“People don’t think about the human side of it and all that goes into it and all the different companies that come together to produce an event,” says Anderson. “Nobody in the entertainment industry is making a dollar right now. Everyone has to figure out how to survive this, and survive it together. So, my optimism is, I think a lot of companies are going to survive this because they are working together. They are going to support each other once we come out the other side.”

On September 22nd Canadian event industry technicians, suppliers and venues from across the country will Light Up Live events in red to raise awareness for the live event industry – which is still dark.

www.ilancooley.com

Read more on Todayville.

 

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