COVID-19 Financial Resources for Businesses and Individuals in Saskatchewan

Authors: Marek Coutu, Mandi Deren-Dubé, Danielle Hopkins – summer law student.
This blog was originally published on April 7, 2020.

We have compiled the following summary of the resources and financial assistance that are presently available to Saskatchewan 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 Saskatchewan Provincial Government

The Saskatchewan government released a scaled back budget focusing on economic and health supports for the COVID-19 pandemic on March 18, 2020. The government has indicated it is well positioned to provide additional resources to address the health and economic challenges of COVID-19, but did not specify what those additional resources would look like. Read the full release from the government.

On March 20, 2020, the Saskatchewan government outlined its financial support plan for Saskatchewan residents. The specific supports being provided are outlined below, and the full release can be found here.

On April 9, 2020, the Saskatchewan government announced the Emergency Support Program for Saskatchewan Small Businesses. Details on the program follow below.

List of resources available to businesses in Saskatchewan

  • Emergency Support Program for Saskatchewan Small Businesses: Saskatchewan small businesses will now be eligible to receive provincial support through a Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (“SSBEP”). The Saskatchewan government announced that the $50-million program will provide financial support to small and medium-sized businesses that have had to temporarily close or significantly curtail operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SSBEP provides a one-time grant for small and medium-sized enterprises directly affected by government public health orders related to COVID-19. Grants will be paid based on 15% of a business’s monthly sales revenue in either of April of 2019 or February of 2020, to a maximum of $5,000. Businesses may select which of these months should be used to calculate their payment. In order to be eligible for the program, a business must have been fully operational on February 29, 2020, have ceased or curtailed operations as a result of the COVID-19 public health order, have less than 500 employees, and commit to reopen business operations following the cancellation of the COVID-19 public health order. Further, businesses must attest that they have not received any payment or amounts from any other sources, including insurance, to replace or compensate for the loss of sales revenue, other than amounts from other government assistance programs. Businesses which were ordered to temporarily close or curtail operations, such as bars, restaurants, recreational and entertainment facilities and personal service facilities may be eligible for the SSBEP, to name a few, and the deadline to apply is July 31, 2020. Further information on the SSBEP is available in our blog.

List of resources available to businesses in Saskatchewan

  • PST Deferral and Audit Suspension: Saskatchewan businesses who are unable to remit their PST due to cashflow concerns will have a three-month relief from penalty and interest charges. Specifically, monthly filers may defer payment of amounts due for February, March and April 2020 reporting periods to July 31, 2020, and quarterly filers may defer payment of amounts due for the January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020 reporting period to July 31, 2020. Businesses are not required to submit a request for relief from penalty and interest charges for these returns. Audit program and compliance activities have also been suspended.
  • Crown Utility Interest Deferral Program: All Crown utilities will implement a bill-deferral program, allowing for a zero-interest bill deferral for up to six months for Saskatchewan customers whose ability to make bill payments may be impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Amendments to Saskatchewan Employment Act and Regulations: During a period of public emergency, businesses will not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice when they lay-off staff if it is for a period of 12 weeks or less in a 16-week period.  If an employer lays off employees periodically for a total of more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, the employees are considered to be terminated and are entitled to pay instead of notice as outlined in the Act.  Saskatchewan Employment Standards has webinars available on these amendments
  • Business Response Team: the government of Saskatchewan has established a Business Response Team, led by the Ministry of Trade and Export Development, which will work with businesses to identify program supports relevant to particular businesses. For more information, businesses can contact the Business Response Team by calling 1-844-800-8688, emailing supportforbusiness@gov.sk.ca or by visiting saskatchewan.ca/covid19-businesses.
  • ISC Suspension Order: Information Services Corporation (ISC) has suspended the strike off provisions for non-profit corporations, co-operative and new generation co-operative entities. The suspension is meant to assist non-profit corporations, co-operatives, and new generation co-operatives that are not in a position to file annual returns and financial statements at the Corporate Registry due to delays in annual meeting caused by the restrictions and recommendations on public gatherings. Pursuant to this order, annual return late filing fees for Not-For-Profit corporations and co-operatives will be suspended.
  • Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB): WCB has announced that it is waiving premium penalties for employers, effective April 1, 2020 until June 30, 2020. Further, WCB is forgiving interest and penalties for late payments applied in the month of March, 2020, and suspending payroll audits until further notice, except in situations where an employer may be eligible for a refund.
  • Support for the Oil and Gas Sector: The Government of Saskatchewan announced a number of relief measures for the provincial oil and gas sector, in response to the economic downturn resulting from COVID-19, and the recent price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Among other things, the provincial relief measures include an extension of certain filing and other deadlines, the extension of certain expiring mineral rights by one year, and a reduction of the industry portion of the Oil and Gas Administrative Levy. Further information on the support available for the oil and gas sector is available here.
    • Support for Livestock Producers: $10 million in additional funding will be provided to help livestock producers manage the impacts of COVID-19 related market disruptions. Additional information can be found here.
    • Mental Health Supports for Farmers: The Farm Stress Line can help farmers and ranchers who are experiencing difficulties, and is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, by calling toll free: 1-800-667-4442.

The following resources are available to individuals in Saskatchewan:

  • Sick Leave: the Province of Saskatchewan has amended the Saskatchewan Employment Act to introduce a new unpaid public health emergency leave and removed the requirements of 13-weeks employment and a doctors’ note to access sick leave.
  • Self-Isolation Support Program: this program is targeted toward Saskatchewan residents who are forced to self-isolate, but are not covered by federal employment insurance programs, employer programs, private insurance, or other supports. This program will provide $450 per week, for a maximum of two weeks or $900. To be eligible, the resident must 1) have contracted COVID-19 or are showing symptoms; 2) have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19; or 3) have recently returned from international travel and have been required to self-isolate.
  • Utility Interest Deferral: this program will allow all crown utility customers to waive interest on late bill payments for up to six months.
  • Student Loan Repayment Moratorium: Saskatchewan student loans will be subject to a six-month moratorium on repayment, mirroring the federal program.
  • Saskatchewan Employment Supplement (SES): SES provides assistance to families with lower-incomes who have children. It is a monthly payment that supplements income from a job, farming, self-employment, or from child or spousal support. See further details and eligibility information
  • Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Deadline Extension: The Federal and Provincial Agricultural Ministers announced that the deadline to apply, reinstate, cancel or make changes to crop insurance contracts has been extended to April 13, 2020. Accordingly, producers (both individuals and corporations) interested in Crop Insurance coverage for the 2020 year now have an additional two weeks to finalize their contracts.Emergency Aid Available for Post-Secondary Students: emergency one-time bursaries will be available to both domestic and international students in need from April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020.
  • Emergency Aid Available for Post-Secondary Students: emergency one-time bursaries will be available to both domestic and international students in need from April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020.
  • Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program: this program is targeted towards eligible lower-income workers at essential care facilities. This program provides a temporary wage supplement of $400 for each four-week period, up to 16 weeks, from March 15, 2020 to July 4, 2020. To be eligible, a worker must earn a wage of less than $24.00 per hour at an eligible care facility and must have total earnings less than $2,500 in the four-week period for which the worker has applied for the supplement.
  • Public Health Emergency Leave: this program is an unpaid leave that enables employees to protect their jobs after they are required to isolate, either for themselves or for the care of their child or family member. If an employer authorizes an employee to work from home during the required isolation, employees are entitled to their regular wages.
  • A comprehensive list of general financial resources available to individuals in Saskatchewan can be found at http://sk.211.ca/ under Income Support

Saskatchewan announced the “Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan”, which outlines the provincial government’s phased-in approach to slowly lift restrictions on businesses and services. See further information on the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan 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.