Gateway Gazette

John Barlow MP: COVID-19

Over the past number of weeks, we have all heard about the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world. The virus has been a topic of great discussion in parliament, and all MPs have been briefed on the situation at hand.

Here in Alberta, the government has been coordinating with local health agencies to ensure they are prepared for cases that may arrive at their doors, including here in Foothills.

The health and safety of everyone in Foothills are my top priorities. I have been in the office every day fielding calls from constituents and small business owners who have questions about financial assistance, travel and employment insurance.

I will remain available and share the information as we receive it from the Government of Canada. We have submitted our suggestions and recommendations to the government. Members of Parliament may be recalled to Ottawa to pass financial aid legislation, but we will keep Foothills constituents apprised of any programs available to assist you through this time.

For now, the House of Commons has adjourned until April 20 – this allows me to remain in Foothills with my full focus on residents. 

With empty store shelves, long lines and general anxiety all around I urge constituents not to panic. There will be plenty of food available not just for days but for months ahead. Please do not panic, and think of your neighbour before you take more than you need. Any chance you have please support your local businesses who will be struggling during this time.

There are many questions about Provincial and Federal government responses to this outbreak, protections for businesses, support for Canadians abroad and travel restrictions. This information is rapidly changing and there is also quite a bit of misinformation circulating. For accurate information please rely on official sources and double-check official websites of the town, province, and official Federal government sites. 

I have provided links and information below, please feel free to share this with your friends and family.

I want to take this opportunity to extend my sincerest thank-you to all of our healthcare professionals and front-line care workers. I want to thank you for the work you will be called upon to do as we get through Covid-19 virus together. At a time when Canadians are being told to exercise social distancing, our healthcare workers are showing up to work, ready and eager to provide the necessary support to patients – because you want to help people in their time of need. Also, thank you to our business owners, workers at grocery stores, drug stores and all the volunteer groups who have formed through this trying time. Your dedication and assistance have been incredible for our communities.

I say this on their behalf everyone in Foothills, and across Canada: thank you for what you’ve done, and thank you for what you are about to do. 

TAX DEADLINE EXTENDED

Canada Revenue Agency will defer its filing due date for the 2019 tax returns of individuals and certain trusts:

  • For individuals, the filing date has been pushed back to June 1, 2020. The original filing date was April 30.
  • For trusts with a taxation year ending on Dec. 31, 2019, the due date for filing returns has been moved back to May 1.
  • Individuals may defer their income tax payments until after Aug. 31, 2020 with no interest or penalties.
  • For business owners, you will also be allowed to defer income tax payments until after Aug. 31 without any interest or penalties. 

More information: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html#Flexibility_for_Tax-filers

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Information about Employment Insurance related to COVID-19:

The federal government has established a phone line dedicated to inquiries regarding EI claims related to COVID-19.

Questions related to EI and COVID-19 can be directed to this line for assistance and information:

1-833-381-2725

This is a dedicated line for those looking to apply for EI benefits because you have had to self-isolate and cannot work, you are an employee or employer looking to apply for financial support through the EI Work-sharing program, or you have been laid off due to COVID-19.

Information is rapidly changing, I will continue to endeavour to provide the most up to date information to constituents as soon as it is made available.

Link for more details: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses

On Wednesday March 18th, 2020 the Government of Canada announced a new set of economic measures to provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses.

Details are forthcoming. I will provide updates as they become available. Focus includes: 

Support for Canadians
Income Support for Individuals Who Need it Most
Flexibility for Taxpayers
Mortgage Default Management Tools
Role of Financial Institutions
Support for Businesses
Supporting Canadian Businesses Through the Canada Account
Helping Businesses Keep Their Workers
Flexibility for Businesses Filing Taxes
Ensuring Businesses have Access to Credit
Supporting Financial Market Liquidity

Full news release available here: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html

Canadians Abroad

While abroad, you may have come in contact with the novel coronavirus.

The government’s call for returning travellers to self-isolate was made this weekend.

Expectations for returning travellers and others who are self-isolating include:

  • Staying home from work and school (where schools are still open);
  • Avoiding public transportation;
  • Arranging to have supplies such as groceries dropped off at their doors;
  • Especially avoiding elderly people and anyone with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions;
  • Keeping any unavoidable interactions with other people brief, maintaining at least two metres’ distance from them and wearing a mask.

To further protect those around you, wash your hands often and cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing.
 
If you start having symptoms of COVID-19, isolate yourself from others as quickly as possible. Immediately call a health care professional or the public health authority in the province or territory where you are located. Describe your symptoms and travel history. They will provide advice on what you should do.

Government of Canada to provide financial assistance to Canadians abroad 

In light of the multiple measures implemented by governments throughout the world to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Government of Canada advises Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.

Many countries have put in place travel or border restrictions and other measures such as movement restrictions and quarantines. Airlines have cancelled flights. New restrictions may be imposed with little warning. Your travel plans may be severely disrupted.

To help Canadians abroad return home, the Government of Canada is creating a special financial assistance program, the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad. With this program, Canadian abroad directly impacted by COVID-19 will have the option of applying for an emergency loan of up to $5,000 to help secure their timely return to Canada and to temporarily cover their life-sustaining needs while they work toward their return.

In addition, the Government of Canada will provide additional support to Canadians directly affected by COVID-19 and unable to immediately return home. This support will be provided through new partnerships with local and other organizations and will complement existing consular services.

The Government of Canada encourages all Canadians abroad to register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to get the latest updates on the situation at their destination.

Eligible Canadians currently outside Canada and needing help to return home can contact the nearest Government of Canada office or Global Affairs Canada’s 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613-996-8885 (collect calls are accepted where available) or email sos@international.gc.ca

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION:

Canadians abroad in need of emergency consular assistance can call Global Affairs Canada’s 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613-996-8885, or email sos@international.gc.ca. For a list of toll free numbers: https://travel.gc.ca/assistance/emergency-assistance/toll-free-numbers

If you are looking for information on COVID-19, please try the following resources for information:


Alberta Response to COVID-19:
https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx

Canada Public Health:
https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

World Health Organization:
https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

Alberta Health Services:
https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/

INFORMATION FOR BUSINESSES

On March 13, 2020 the federal government announced that the government is establishing a Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) to support financing in the private sector through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC). 

Here are the current options available:

Small Business Loan: Up to $100,000 can be obtained online.
Working capital loan: For loans over $100,000 and can support everyday operations.
Purchase Order Financing: Loans to fulfill domestic or international orders.

If you have specific questions about applying for funding, BDC can be reached at the toll-free number: 1-877-232-2269 Monday to Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). They also have an online assessment tool.

CFIB Supporting Businesses:
CFIB is offering advice and assistance to businesses navigating all of this. CFIB has opened their Helpline to all business owners including non-CFIB members for advice on managing COVID-19 situations in the workplace.

To talk to an expert, please call them at 1-888-234-2232.

Canada’s Six Biggest Banks Take Decisive Action to Help Customers Impacted by COVID-19

Bank of Montreal, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank 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 closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19.

This support will include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.

Individual Canadians or business owners facing hardship are encouraged to contact their bank directly to discuss options that could be available to them.More information: http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/news/2020/20200317-client-support.html?fbclid=IwAR39PuO9awjS7nbin4Wljq6_cAH3P65IyKI76gpaBCcIYWYPAHJMuJJbZgY

Know the facts About Coronavirus (covid-19)

COVID-19 is an illness caused by a coronavirus. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus. Coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
· Respiratory droplets when you cough or sneeze
· Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
· Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands

These viruses are not known to spread through ventilation systems or through water.

The best way to prevent the spread of infections is to:

· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick;
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
· When coughing or sneezing:
· Cover you mouth and nose with your arm or tissues to reduce the spread of germs
· Immediately dispose of any tissues you have used into the garbage as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as toys, electronic devices and doorknobs
· Stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19—fever, cough, or difficult breathing:
· Stay home to avoid spreading it to others
· If you live with others, stay in a separate room or keep a two-meter distance
· Call ahead before you visit a health care professional or call you local public health authority
· Tell them your symptoms and follow their instructions
· If you need immediate medical attention, call 911 and tell them your symptoms

Vulnerable Populations and COVID-19

While diseases can make anyone sick, some Canadians are more at risk of getting an infection and developing severe complications due to their health, social and economic circumstances.

Vulnerable populations may include:

Anyone who is:
· An older adult
· At risk due to underlying medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, cancer)
· At risk due to a compromised immune system from a medical condition or treatment (e.g. chemotherapy)

Anyone who has:
· Difficulty reading, speaking, understanding or communicating
· Difficulty accessing medical care or health advice
· Difficulty doing preventive activities, like frequent hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes
· Ongoing specialized medical care or needs specific medical supplies
· Ongoing supervision needs or support for maintaining independence
· Unstable employment or inflexible working conditions
· Social or geographic isolation, like in remote and isolated communities
· Insecure, inadequate, or nonexistent housing conditions

How your organization/business can support vulnerable populations

Provide clear instructions about how to wash hands and cover coughs using:
· the most commonly used language in the community
· short messages that explain simple steps they can take
· large font and graphics
· accessible instructions (e.g., braille, pictoral)
· by posting signs in common areas near sinks, entrances, intake areas, restrooms, sleeping areas, recreation areas, waiting rooms
 
Consider supporting alternatives such as:
· using volunteer drivers and subsidized taxi fares instead of public transportation
· putting in place alternative outreach measures or a “buddy” system
· including policies to allow sick clients to rest in shelters during the day
· providing access to food, drinks and supplies, as possible
· reminding clients to fill or refill prescriptions, and necessary medical supplies
 
If you suspect a client is sick from COVID-19, please contact your local public health authority.

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