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Saskatchewan: COVID-19 relief measures for your business

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We know that this is a difficult time, full of uncertainty. The information you need to run your business changes rapidly, and it can be hard to keep track and make sense of it all.  

In order to relieve some of the pressure on small businesses such as yours, we are gathering all the information you need about government services and supports in Saskatchewan and putting it in this one location. We will continue working with governments to ensure additional relief measures become available for your business as the situation evolves.

Please check back regularly. We will update this page as more information becomes available. 

Do you have questions about the Government of Saskatchewan's public emergency provisions?

The Employment Standards Division of the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety is hosting a webinar on Employment Standards public emergency provisions to provide information on recent leave and layoff provision changes.

The webinars are offered through GoToWebinar, an online software service that uses your computer's internet browser. GoToWebinar will automatically download the required software onto your device when you register.

Registration Links:

Friday, April 3rd - 1:30pm

Saskatchewan Declares State of Emergency

The Government of Saskatchewan today declared a provincial State of Emergency on March 18, giving the government broad powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic.  This includes measures like the ability to limit travel to or from a community or region of the province and directing that property or equipment be deployed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Health Officer, also made a number of new orders to reduce the risk to Saskatchewan people, prevent transmission and ensure that acute care services are preserved for residents most at risk for severe illness.

In an update to the State of Emergency, the Chief Medical Health Officer announced additional measures to stop the spread of COVID-19:

The following updated measures are effective immediately:

  • Limiting the size of public and private gatherings to a maximum of ten people.
  • The closure of all nightclubs, bars, lounges and similar facilities.  Take out of alcohol or food products so permitted with two metre distancing between customers and the delivery of alcohol or food products.
  • In-person classes in all primary and secondary educational institutions both public and private are suspended.
  • Visitors to long-term care homes, hospitals, personal care homes, and group homes shall be restricted to family visiting for compassionate reasons.

Effective March 25, 2020: Critical Public Services to Address COVID‐19 and Allowable Business Services

Clarity is being provided to Saskatchewan businesses surrounding the operations ofallowable business services. A list of critical public services and allowable business services has been created to inform the business community of which businesses can continue to operate in accordance with social distancing practices.  All changes are effective March 26, 2020.

The list includes: health care and public health workers; law enforcement, public safety and first responders; production, processing and manufacturing and the supporting supply chains; transportation and logistics; government and community services; media and telecommunications; construction including maintenance and repair; select retail services; and banking and financial services.

Non-Allowable Business Services
 
Effective March 26, non-allowable business services will be unable to provide public-facing services.  While closure of non-allowable business services prevents certain businesses from providing public facing services, it does not preclude opportunities for non-allowable business services to expand into online retailing, or providing pick-up or delivery services.
 
Examples of non-allowable business services that will be prohibited from providing public-facing services includes: clothing stores; shoe stores; flower shops; sporting good and adventure stores; vaping supply shops; boats, ATV, or snowmobile retailers; gift, book, or stationary stores; jewelry and accessory stores; toy stores; music, electronic and entertainment stores; pawn shops; and travel agencies.

Please see the Government of Saskatchewan's backgrounder for the full list: Allowable Business Services Backgrounder

Effective March 23, 2020:

  • The closure of restaurants, food courts, cafeterias, cafes, bistros and similar facilities.  Exceptions are take out with two metre distancing between customers during pick-up; drive through food services; delivery of food products; soup kitchens, not-for-profit community and religious kitchens with two metre distancing between tables.
  • The closure of all recreational and entertainment facilities including fitness centers, casinos, bingo halls, arenas, curling rinks, swimming pools, galleries, theatres, museums and similar facilities.
  • The closure of all personal service facilities including tattooists, hairdressers, barbers, acupuncturists, acupressurists, cosmetologists, electrologists, estheticians, manicurists, pedicurists, suntanning parlours, relaxation masseuses, facilities in which body piercing, bone grafting or scarification services.
  • The closure of dental, optometrist, chiropractic, registered massage therapy and podiatry clinics except for non-elective procedures.
  • All daycare facilities are limited to maximum of eight children unless they can configure the facility so that a maximum of eight children are kept in room and be in accordance with the Saskatchewan child care guidelines for care.
  • All daycares that are co-located with a long-term care or personal care home that meet the above restriction shall be segregated with a private entrance so that there are no shared common areas with the home and no interaction between daycare children and residents of the facility.

For further information, please see the Government of Saskatchewan’s news release:COVID-19: Additional Measures to Protect Saskatchewan Residents

Do you operate a trucking company? The Government of Saskatchewan is temporarily modifying hours of service regulations for commercial truck drivers in response to COVID-19. The exemption applies to the transportation of goods and supplies to meet immediate needs related to the pandemic. Find out more here: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2020/march/30/supplies-granted-exemption

 

Supports for businesses

Three Month PST Remittance Deferral and Audit Suspension: Effective immediately, Saskatchewan businesses who are unable to remit their PST due to cashflow concerns will have relief from penalty and interest charges.  Businesses that are unable to file their provincial tax return(s) by the due date can submit a request for relief from penalty and interest charges on their returns. Audit program and compliance activities have been suspended to allow businesses time to focus on the health and safety of their customers and staff, reduce impacts to business operations, and minimize the spread of the virus through reduced audit travel.

Changes to Employment Standard Regulations: In addition to changes made to changes to The Saskatchewan Employment Act that introduced a new unpaid public health emergency leave and removed the 13-week employment requirement to access sick leave and the requirement for a doctor’s note to access sick leave, The Employment Standard Regulations have been amended to:

  • Ensure that during a 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; and
  • 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. This will be calculated from the date on which the employee was laid off.

These amendments create a balance for employers and employees where the difficult decision may be made to lay-off employees due to public health emergencies. In this circumstance, employees would have immediate access to new federal employment insurance programs, while keeping employers financially stable to ensure employees have a job to return to.

Business Response Team: To provide support to Saskatchewan businesses seeking to navigate the uncertain conditions caused by COVID-19, the Government of Saskatchewan will be establishing a single window information webpage for businesses to access information and receive timely updates on provincial support initiatives.  This will be complemented by the establishment of 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 available to them both provincially and federally.

An email address and toll-free telephone number have been created to provide businesses a single point of contact to help answer questions.  A single window information webpage has also been developed for businesses to access information and receive timely updates on provincial support initiatives.  The webpage includes information on both provincial and federal support measures, including the province’s recently announced financial support program.

 For more information, businesses can contact the Business Response Team by calling 1-844-800-8688, emailing [email protected] or by visiting www.saskatchewan.ca/covid19-businesses

SaskBuilds Single Procurement Service: The Government of Saskatchewan has been contacted by many businesses, individuals and groups who have offered ideas and solutions.  As such, the SaskBuilds Single Procurement Service will serve as a central point of contact and co-ordination. If you are a Saskatchewan business, innovator, or supplier and you think you have a solution that can help us fight COVID-19, you may direct your submission to [email protected].

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Saskatchewan WCB offers relief measures for employers

Premium penalties waived for employers effective April 1 until June 30, 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis

The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) is introducing additional relief measures for employers who are unable to pay their WCB premium payments. Effective April 1 until June 30, 2020, the WCB will waive penalties and interest charges for late premium payments.
 
To provide further relief for Saskatchewan employers, the WCB is:

  • Forgiving interest and penalties for late payments on 2020 premiums applied in the month of March.
  • Prioritizing employer payroll revisions to help employers reduce their premiums.
  • Suspending payroll audits until further notice except in situations where an employer may be eligible for a refund.
  • By giving employers extra time to submit their payments without facing any penalties, they will be able to communicate their revised payroll estimates to the WCB and determine payment plan options.

Employers who have reduced their workforce are encouraged to submit revisions to their 2020 assessable payroll estimates, which the WCB will use to recalculate their required premiums. Employers who have concerns about paying their 2020 premiums should contact the WCB to discuss their options.
 
Effective immediately, to ensure employers can release payment to their contractors promptly during the COVID-19 crisis, clearance letters will be available for employers that meet specific criteria, even in cases where the contractor’s WCB account has not been paid. Employers will not be liable for any outstanding WCB premiums the contractor owes.
 

Crown Corporations - utility payment relief

Crown Utility Interest Deferral Programs:

SaskPower:

On March 20, the provincial government announced a crown utility interest deferral program waving interest on late bill payments for up to six months. Effective immediately, the crown utility interest deferral program is available to all crown utility customers, including business owners

In response to the COVID-19 issue, SaskPower has instituted the following additional measures to ease potential challenges for customers. These include:

  • Stopping active collection activity on overdue accounts
  • Stopping disconnections of residential power service for non-payment
  • Not installing devices to limit electrical supply to customers who are in arrears

Crown utilities are waiving interest for six months to help residents and businesses deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19. Over this period, no late payment charges or interest will be applied. After six months, the balance of regular monthly payments will be due.

To help customers get back on their feet, they will have a year after that six-month period to pay off any outstanding balance over the next year with equal monthly installments. No additional interest will be charged. In total, this provides customers with 18 months to recover from the impact of the pandemic to their finances.

For more information, please see SaskPower's website: https://www.saskpower.com/about-us/Our-Company/Blog/To-Our-Valued-Customers-SaskPowers-Response-to-COVID-19

SaskEnergy:

In an effort to provide some relief for customers, effective March 18th, SaskEnergy also implemented the government's Crown Utility Interest Waiver Program. Over the coming six months, late payment charges and interest fees will be waived. During this time, SaskEnergy will not be disconnecting customers for non-payment.

After the close of the six-month program, any outstanding balance can be paid back over the following 12 months through equal monthly installments – with no additional interest charged on these payments. In total, this provides customers with a period of 18 months to recover from the impact of the pandemic to their finances.

If you are experiencing financial hardship due to the ongoing pandemic, please call us at 1-800-567-8899 or 1-306-777-9200 to discuss the program and payment plan options.

For more information, please see SaskEnergy's website: https://www.saskenergy.com/About_SaskEnergy/covid-19-response.asp

Supports for self-employed

Self-Isolation Support Program:

Administered by the Ministry of Finance, the program will provide $450 per week, for a maximum of two weeks or $900. The program is targeted at Saskatchewan residents forced to self-isolate that are not covered by recent federally announced employment insurance programs and other supports. The program is designed to ensure that all Saskatchewan residents are covered by either a federal or provincial program to ensure no one is faced with choosing to work instead of protecting their family and community from COVID-19 by self-isolating.

The program applies to Saskatchewan small business owners that meet the following eligibility criteria:
• 
• They have contracted COVID-19 or are showing symptoms;
• They have been in contact with an individual infected with COVID-19;
• They have recently returned from international travel and have been required to self-isolate;
AND
• If they are not eligible for compensation including sick leave, vacation leave from their employer
• If they do not have private insurance covering such disruptions
• If they are not covered by other programs such as federal employment insurance that has been updated

For more information, please see the Government of Saskatchewan's Self-Isolation Support Program webpage

Support for employees

Information on support for workers:

A website has also been launched to provide information on support for workers who have had their employment impacted by the current economic situation.  Workers can visit www.saskatchewan.ca/covid19-workers  for more information
Leave for Employees during Public Health Emergencies: The provincial government has introduced amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act which ensure employees have access to job protected leaves during a public health emergency. The amendments to the Act are:

  1. to remove the requirement of 13 consecutive weeks of employment with the employer prior to accessing sick leave;
  2. to remove the provision requiring a doctor’s note or certificate; and
  3. Introduction of a new unpaid public health emergency leave that can be accessed:
    1. When the World Health Organization has determined that there is a public health emergency and the province’s chief medical health officer has also issued an order that measures be taken to reduce the spread of a disease; or
    2. The province’s chief medical health officer has independently issued an order that measures be taken provincially to reduce the spread of a disease where it is believed there is sufficient risk of harm to citizens of the province. The orders would also be made public to ensure everyone is aware of the direction.

The amendments to the Act are retroactive to March 6, 2020.

 

Taking care of your mental health during the COVID-19 crisis

There are a number of mental health resources available to Saskatchewan residents including:

Employee and Family Assistance Programs can assist with mental health supports and counselling for qualifying employees and their dependents.
 

For example:

The Ministry of Education continues to offer Mental Health Capacity Building support for staff and students in five schools during school closures, through online and social media platforms.

Ministry of Social Services staff are supporting clients, service providers and Approved Private Service Homes.  All CBO agencies continue to offer counselling by phone or virtual technology.

Indigenous Services Canada Mental Health Therapists are available by phone or Telehealth to residents of First Nations communities.

 

What is CFIB doing?

CFIB’s Saskatchewan legislative team is working around the clock to make sure government officials know what your business needs are. Currently we are asking the Government of Saskatchewan to:

  1. Implement tax holidays on all Provincial Taxes & Fees: 69% of Sask small business owners say tax deferrals are not enough and that governments need to shift to tax holidays. We therefore recommend that effective April 1, 2020 for a period to Oct 1, 2020 the provincial government should stop charging all utilities, business taxes, fees, licenses, and WCB costs for Saskatchewan employers. All PST and other provincially levied taxes would stop for this period.
  2. Create a Hardship Fund with additional emergency money for businesses with significant revenue losses, significant cost increases and/or who are at risk of permanent closure due to COVID-19 to help small businesses pay rent and offset other fixed costs. Priority should be given to businesses that were forced to close and those not covered by federal programs (e.g. The B.C. government has created the Emergency Benefit for Workers which will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to people who lost income because of COVID-19)
  3. Introduce temporary protections to ensure that commercial tenants are not evicted during this crisis (e.g. NB & NS)
  4. Ensure that Employment Standards cover the COVID-19 period, work with federal programs, and do not inadvertently create additional costs and stress for employers. For example, if COVID layoffs go beyond existing employment standards provisions the provincial government should ensure that employers are not faced with severance costs and constructive dismissal claims
  5. Encourage municipalities (excluding those who have already done so) to provide commercial property owners with a property tax holiday for a minimum of 3 months OR at least waive all interest and penalties for unpaid property tax bills for a minimum of three months (e.g. City of Saskatoon has extended the 2020 Property Tax deadline by three months to September 30, 2020)
  6. Postpone property tax reassessments being conducted this year for the 2021 tax year (similar to Ontario)

FAQ on COVID-19

We’re dedicated to supporting your business through this difficult time by compiling answers to the most common COVID-19 questions and keeping you up to date on the latest relief measures from the federal government. Visit our Small Business Help Center to learn more.