Government responses to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic have been coming fast and furious in the last few days. To help people get up to speed on what measures have been taken and how they might impact on them in the days, weeks and months to come here’s a breakdown.
With many Canadians facing financial hardship the federal government has announced an $82 billion package to provide short-term relief to workers, families and business owners. These measures include special GST and Canada Child Benefit top-ups, an Emergency Care Benefit for workers who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave and an Emergency Support Benefit for self-employed workers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance.
Small business owners are being offered a 10 per cent wage subsidy for the next 90 days to keep people on the payroll. The government also announced a $305 million Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities. The deadline to file personal taxes has been extended from April 30 to June 1, and businesses will be allowed to defer taxes until Aug. 31. Read more about these measures and more here.
On Friday the provincial government declared a state of emergency under the Public Health Act. The order provides police with additional powers to enforce self-isolation for 14 days for people returning from international travel; a prohibition on gatherings of more than 25 people; and mandated closure of nightclubs, bars and lounges. Effective Monday, all restaurants, food courts, cafeterias and similar facilities must close, along with all recreational, cultural and entertainment facilities and personal care businesses such as hair salons, gyms and tattoo parlours. As well, all dental, optometrist, chiropractic, registered massage therapy and podiatry clinics are closed except for non-elective procedures.
Take out and drive-thru food service and food deliveries are permitted as long as social distancing is practiced. The same applies to alcohol from bars and off-sale retailers.
You can find out more on the province’s response here.
During a special meeting on Friday, City Council also declared a state of emergency. The declaration is in effect for seven days, and overlaps with steps taken by the province in many instances.
But the civic declaration prohibits group meetings of more than five people, and extends the closure of retail outlets to clothing, shoes, sporting, furniture, toy, craft and gaming effective March 23. Grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations are exempt, and facilities that provide delivery or curbside service can continue to do so.*
*On Sunday, the province rescinded parts of the city’s declaration that were inconsistent with its order and said that its restrictions were to apply province-wide.
All city cultural and recreational facilities such as libraries, galleries and community centres are closed. Regina Transit will continue to run but week-day service will be converted to the Saturday schedule. As well, Saturday service will now run on the Sunday schedule, and Sunday service remains the same. Fares have been eliminated, but to limit the health risk to drivers transit users will be expected to enter and exit through the rear door unless they have mobility challenges.
Finally, the city is enabling people and businesses to defer payment on their water utility bill for up to six months and the property tax deadline has been extended from June 30 to Oct. 1 before a penalty will be applied. Read more here.