With the recent outbreaks in Zones 1 and 5 in New Brunswick, the province’s mandatory mask order and a host of support-program announcements from the federal government, we are providing this COVID-19 update. It’s the first dedicated update we have done since 22 June 2020, but we trust you are signed up to receive our informational emails, including our weekly Chamber Connections, which contains all the latest information about COVID-19 that you need to know.
Congratulations to the Fredericton International Airport (YFC) for being the first airport in New Brunswick to receive recognition of their health and safety measures through the Airports Council International (ACI) Airport Health Accreditation programme. Read more information here.
Masks now Mandatory in Indoor Public Spaces
Lat week, the provincial government announced that masks will become mandatory in most indoor public places. The complete press release available here. As per Cox and Palmer’s Labour and Employment Group:
“the order defines “public indoor space” as an indoor space in which proprietors and/or employees interact with patrons, customers, clients, or the general public. Masks are not required in offices where a person works alone or in indoor work sites where employees are separated by a physical barrier. As such, employees who are separated from others by a physical barrier are not required to wear a mask.
Further, masks are not required in workplaces into which the public is not admitted. In these circumstances, masks are only required when accessing common areas of the workplace or when working closer than 2 metres to another employee. (Note: common areas include lobbies, hallways, washrooms, elevators and stairwells).
The mask requirement does not apply to schools, recreational facilities, hospitals, or other healthcare settings if those facilities are in compliance with public heath guidelines specific to their sector and have an approved operational plan.”
Please note that the guidance above applies to Zones in Yellow Phase. The state of emergency mandatory order was revised Thursday to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces (section 15) and to change the travel restrictions at the Quebec border. It was further revised to move Zone 5 and Zone 1 to the Orange level of alert.
We have been further advised by WorkSafeNB that:
- Public Health’s intent of the masking for “patrons, customers, clients, or the general public” includes offices that aren’t necessarily “open to the public” but have meetings with clients, etc. (even by appointment). Therefore, if you are meeting with a client, Public Health expects that the employee and client will be masked regardless of your distance within your office or meeting room.
- Please note that the Chamber office fits in this category – if you come into the office, you can expect to see us in our masks and guests will be expected to wear a mask for the duration of their time in our office.
- Individuals that have been in an Orange Phase Zone (Zones 1 and 5) and returning to a Yellow Phase Zone – that individual must comply with the Public Health and WorkSafeNB regulations for the Orange Zones for two weeks (even though they are now currently in a Yellow Zone). Up-to-date information on requirements per Zone can be found here.
I would encourage all businesses to review their operational plans at this time to ensure that your business or organization is in compliance with the revised rules – you should contact WorkSafeNB with questions about your specific workplace.
We also continue to advocate to the Government of New Brunswick that they develop a procedural mechanism that would allow businesses / industries / sectors to apply for reclassification within the New Brunswick Recovery Plan’s colour-coded phases. As we’ve seen from Zone 1 and Zone 5 re-entering the Orange Phase, ensuring that businesses are only restricted to the extent necessary to maintain public health is critical to our economic recovery.
COVID-19 Fall Pandemic Response Preparedness Plan 2020
In August, the Government of New Brunswick released its COVID-19 Fall Pandemic Response and Preparedness Plan, which includes some tweaks to the colour-coded levels in the event any region(s) in the province is triggered out of the Yellow Phase. Notably, unless specifically excluded by Public Health, businesses may be able to remain open if their operational plan can ensure compliance with public health and safety requirements. View the plan here.
Online COVID-19 Self-Assessment and Testing Referrals
New Brunswickers can now complete an online self-referral to be tested for COVID-19. If you’re experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and do not need to talk to a nurse, complete the self-assessment found here.
Expanded and Extended Federal Support Programs
Last week the federal government announced plans to introduce legislation to provide the following additional supports to business:
- The new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) – which is replacing the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program (CECRA) – will provide rent and mortgage support until June 2021 for qualifying organizations affected by COVID-19. The rent subsidy will be provided directly to tenants, while also providing support to property owners. Under the new program, small businesses, charities and non-profit groups will get up to 65 per cent of their rent or mortgage interest payments subsidized until Dec. 19 if they lost more than 70 per cent of their revenue. If they lost less than that amount, the rent subsidy is less (sliding scale).
- In addition to the rent subsidies, businesses that are mandated to close by government order – such as indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and casinos in certain regions in Quebec and Ontario – will be eligible for an additional rent subsidy of 25 per cent.
- That means a business could get up to 90 per cent of its rent covered by taxpayer funds. A version of the program will last until June of next year, though the subsidy levels may change after December. Full details are not yet available – we will share those when released by government.
- The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) has been extended to June 2021. The subsidy will remain at the current subsidy rate – up to a maximum of 65 percent of eligible wages until December 19, 2020 (for businesses that meet the program criteria), at which point we expect a gradual decline in the percentage until the June end date.
- An expanded Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), which would enable businesses, and not-for-profits eligible for CEBA loans—and that continue to be seriously impacted by the pandemic—to access an interest-free loan of up to $20,000, in addition to the original CEBA loan of $40,000. Half of this additional financing would be forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022. Additionally, the application deadline for CEBA is being extended to December 31, 2020. Further details, including the launch date and application process will be announced in the coming days. An attestation of the impact of COVID-19 on the business will be required to access the additional financing.
- The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) are now open to receive applications. The programs, both part of the package replacing the CERB, may now be applied for. Applications for both programs are available through the Canada Revenue Agency. Applications for the Canada Recovery Benefit will be available starting October 12. CRA’s new CRSB, CRCB and CRB web pages provide extensive information about these benefits including eligibility requirements, how to apply and eligibility period dates. Apply For CRSB here or Apply For CRCB here.
- Earlier this month, the federal government also announced an additional $60.2 million for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to help businesses in Atlantic Canada through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. This flows from the $600 million in top-up funds for the RRRF nationally.
ACOA will deliver $42.2 million of the top-up funds to Atlantic Canadian SMEs that still need extra cash flow to deal with the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19. The remaining $18 million will be distributed by the network of 41 Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) for businesses and retailers in small, rural and remote communities throughout Atlantic Canada. Eligible businesses and organizations in Atlantic Canada that require additional help to recover from the pandemic are encouraged to apply for the RRRF through ACOA or their local CBDC.
Members are also encouraged to reach out to our office at any time with questions or concerns or specific advocacy issues. We rely on your input and feedback to identify issues that can help the business community.
Finally, I would like to challenge everyone to download and use the COVID-19 Alert App today. A key to economic recovery from COVID-19 includes tracking and managing the spread of the virus. In order to do that, we must have the ability to effectively track the virus and any possible exposures to it. The COVID Alert App helps us break the cycle of infection. The app can let people know of possible exposures before any symptoms appear. That way, we can take care of ourselves and protect our communities.
email@example.com / (506) 461-5165
Krista Ross, CEO
Fredericton Chamber of Commerce