COVID-19 Financial Resources Available for Businesses and Individuals in Alberta

Authors: Kaitlin Ward, Mandi Deren-Dubé

This blog was originally published on April 7, 2020. It has been updated to include new support measures as they are announced.

We have compiled the following summary of the resources and financial assistance that are presently available to Alberta businesses and individuals, which you may wish to consider as you prepare to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on your organization.

This list is intended to supplement the list of federal programs, which can be found here.

Response by Alberta Provincial Government

On March 18, 2020, the Alberta government outlined its plan to provide financial support to Albertans affected by COVID-19. The specific supports being provided are outlined below, and the full news release.

On March 23, 2020, the Alberta government rolled out additional supports for Albertans and businesses. The specific supports are outlined below, and the full news release can be found here.

List of resources available to businesses in Alberta

  • Education Property Tax Deferral: effective immediately, the government will defer education property tax for businesses for six months. 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.
  • WCB Premium Deferral: 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.
  • Tax Deferral: The collection of corporate income tax balances and instalment payments is deferred until August 31, 2020.
  • Tourism Levy Deferral: Hotels and other lodging providers can delay paying the tourism levy until August 31, 2020 for any amounts that are due on or after March 27, 2020. Any payments deferred until August 31, 2020 will not be subject to penalties or interest.
  • Deferral of Timber Dues: Forest companies can defer timber dues owed to the Alberta Government until October 4, 2020.
  • Forest Jobs Action Plan: Increases forest businesses’ Annual Allowable Cut by 13%.
  • Homeless Shelters and Service Providers: The government of Alberta has committed $30 million to adult homeless shelters and women’s emergency shelters.
  • Charities and Not-for-Profit Organizations: The government of Alberta has committed $30 million to charities, non-profits and civil society organizations. Further details and links on how to and apply for additional funding can be found here.
  • Community Initiatives Program: The government of Alberta is combining the May and September intakes of the Community Initiatives Program Operating grant into a single intake in June to flow funds to front-line organizations. Funding will be prioritized for small and medium-sized organizations focusing on food security, shelter and housing, and addictions and mental health supports. Applicants are encouraged to check the Community Grants website for program information and intake updates.
  • Business Link: Small business are encouraged to speak to small business advisers at Business Link for free advice, coaching and information on COVID-19 resources and supports.
  • Agri-Recovery Support: AgriRecovery is an existing federal-provincial program that helps agricultural producers recover from natural disasters. On May 5, it announced up to $125 million in funding to help cattle and hog producers facing extraordinary costs, including $50 million for a cattle set-aside program. Under the cattle set-aside program, beef producers can access compensation for costs incurring from holding onto slaughter-ready cattle on maintenance feed rations for several weeks.
  • Child Care Sector Relief: Day cares and out-of-school care centres will receive funding in three phases, in addition to the one-time grant of $500 for PPE and cleaning supplies.
    • Phase 1 – $6.7 million. This is a one-time grant to cover up to 25% overhead costs like rent and utilities.
    • Phase 2 – $3.2 million. Once reopened, centres will receive a grant for cleaning and sanitation supplies to adhere to public health guidelines.
    • Phase 3 – $6.9 million. After being open for three months, centres will potentially receive a third grant to offset deferred bills or unforeseen operational issues.
  • A comprehensive list of government loan programs applicable to small businesses is available.
  • Albertans interested in financial support for businesses and organizations can visit the Government of Alberta’s website for further information.

The following companies in Alberta are offering support to Albertans:

  • Epcor: Customers who expect to have difficulty paying their bills are encouraged to contact Epcor at 310-4300. Epcor team members can discuss accounts and situations, and work with customers on payment options and arrangements. Learn more about Epcor’s offerings.
  • Enmax: the program includes offering customers affected by COVID-19 access to increased payment flexibility including installment plans, extending payment dates and/or suspension of collection-related activities on their ENMAX and City of Calgary municipal services. In addition, Enmax has suspended any disconnection of electricity service for non-payment until further notice. Learn more.
  • ATB financial: Personal banking customers can apply for a deferral on their ATB loans, lines of credit and mortgages for up to six months. Continue reading for details on ATB’s financial relief plan.
  • Alberta Credit Unions: Credit union members will have access to a variety of programs and solutions designed to ease difficulties with loan payments and short-term cash flow. Contact your credit union to work out a plan for your personal situation.
  • Agriculture Financial Services Corporation: AFSC is offering loan payment relief through interest-only payments or payment deferrals for clients who qualify. Clients are encouraged to call 1-877-899-2372 to speak to an adviser to discuss payment alternatives, or visit AFSC’s website for further information.
  • London Drugs: London Drugs is offering shelf space to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Businesses are encouraged to apply here. Qualified applicants must have a valid Canadian business license or permit; the business must be based in Western Canada; no alcohol, cannabis or tobacco products may be sold; products must be physical items (i.e. not service-based); the business must not be deemed an essential service and permitted to operate at full capacity; and the products must not require refrigeration or freezing. Applicants have until May 15, 2020 to apply.

The following resources are available to individuals in Alberta:

  • Emergency Isolation Support:The Emergency Isolation Support program is now closed. It distributed funds to about 79,596 eligible Albertans, for a total of approximately $91.7 million. Individuals seeking relief are encouraged to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, available as of April 5, 2020.a temporary program for working adult Albertans who must self-isolate because they meet the Government of Alberta’s published criteria for self-isolation. This will be a one-time payment, intended to bridge the gap until the federal emergency payments begin in April. The online application for this payment was first available the week of March 23, 2020.
  • The Emergency Isolation Support program is now closed. It distributed funds to about 79,596 eligible Albertans, for a total of approximately $91.7 million. Individuals seeking relief are encouraged to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, available as of April 5, 2020.
  • Utility Payment Holiday: Residential, farm, and small commercial customers will be able to defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off, regardless of the service provider.
  • Bill 14 proposes passing the Utility Payment Deferral Program Act to allow electricity and natural gas providers to apply for loans from the Balancing Pool or the Government of Alberta. Bill 14 also lays out repayment criteria for individuals who defer payments through the Utility Payment Deferral Program. All deferred payments must be paid back by June 18, 2021, either through equal, monthly instalments, or a repayment plan.
  • Student Loan Repayment Holiday: Alberta Student Loans will be subject to a six-month, interest-free, moratorium for all Albertans in the process of repaying these loans. There is no need to apply for this benefit; all Alberta Student Loan repayments will be paused for six months, beginning March 30, 2020. Borrowers can choose to continue making payments during this period, and this will not affect their eligibility to receive the benefit.
  • Education Property Tax Freeze: Property taxes will be frozen at last year’s level.
  • Changes to Eviction Process: If a residential tenant fails to pay rent, landlords are now required to work with tenants to work out a rental payment plan before bringing an application for eviction with the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Services. In addition, the government has suspended civil enforcement of evictions for non-payment of residential rent until April 30, 2020. Rent will not increase while Alberta’s state of public health emergency remains in effect. Until June 30, 2020, late fees cannot be applied to late rent payments.
  • Individuals can find further information on residential tenancies at the government of Alberta’s website.
  • Mental Health Support for Northern Albertans: The government of Alberta provided one-time funding of $500,000 to Alberta Health Services to increase mental health capacity in Fort McMurray and Fort Vermillion after the spring flooding. Additional supports include staff qualified to provide psychiatric, nursing and social work support.
  • Please visit the government of Alberta website to learn more about financial supports available to individuals.

The following resources are available in municipalities across Alberta:

  • City of Edmonton
    • The Edmonton EXPO Centre has been activated as an isolation and care centre.
    • Hope Mission and The Mustard Seed will activate additional capacity to meet social distancing guidelines.
    • Edmonton City Council has voted to approve deferrals on Business Improvement Area Tax.
    • Grant Applications are available for local non-profits and charitable organizations who serve vulnerable Edmontonians impacted by COVID-19. Applications can be found here.
  • City of Calgary
    • Isolation and care will operate out of hotel rooms.
    • Alpha House, the Calgary Drop-In Centre, The Mustard Seed and Inn from the Cold will activate additional spaces to meet social distancing guidelines.
  • City of Red Deer
    • Safe Harbor Society has relocated to accommodate an additional 100 spaces.

The Alberta government is also providing the following funding and assistance for Alberta’s natural resource industries:

  • Funding the Alberta Energy Regulator’s industry levy for six months ($113 million);
  • Extending the term of mineral agreements expiring in 2020 by one year to provide additional time to raise capital and plan future activities;
  • Extending a $100 million loan to the Orphan Well Association to bolster immediate reclamation efforts; and
  • On May 13, 2020, the Alberta government announced it was implementing a royalty rate of 4.25% on helium to encourage investment; global demand for helium is growing rapidly, partially due to its use in medical imaging, electronics and space exploration.

Albertans can also seek out additional financial supports from the following resources:

  • Kind Wealth
    • Offers pro-bono personal finance consultations to anyone struggling with financial stress and anxiety at this time.
    • Visit Kind Wealth’s website for further information on how Kind Wealth can assist.
  • Money Mentors
    • Offers personal money management programs, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, its credit counsellors are available for appointment by phone, toll-free at 1-888-294-0076, or by Skype.
    • Money Mentors is offering free online financial education programs here. Participants who successfully complete an online course are entered to win a monthly draw for $500.
    • Money Mentors has prepared a summary of financial resources related to COVID-19, available here.

211 Alberta has made available an up-to-date list of information and resources available to Albertans, which can be accessed here.

We foresee many difficult and challenging circumstances arising from the spread of COVID-19 on our clients, and we are here to help you navigate these circumstances.  In the above article, we have attempted to outline some of the more recent developments which have been implemented to assist businesses and individuals, but this list is not exhaustive, and there may be further options available to you.  If you have questions relating to your organization’s specific circumstances, please reach out to MLT Aikins for assistance.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.