Alberta takes steps to lessen COVID-19 impact

People who think current drastic measures to control the spread of COVID-19 will be over in a few weeks must think again, said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

“This is going to take some time and I think Albertans need to start to wrap their heads around that,” Kenney said in a news conference Wednesday evening.

“To be realistic … we can expect this to pose a very real threat to public safety for at least the next two to three months.”

Projections indicate cases of the virus could peak four or five weeks from now and then decline, although the threat to public health will continue well into May and June and possibly longer, the premier said.

He announced a number of measures to help Albertans in the face of a collapse in energy prices and what he termed “a major contraction of the global economy in the months to come.”

However, he also noted there are projections for a sharp economic rebound in June as pent-up demand for goods and services is expected to surge.

Details as outlined in an Alberta government news release are these:

Emergency Isolation Support: $50 million

– This will be a temporary program for working adult Albertans who must self-isolate because they meet the Government of Alberta’s published criteria for self-isolation, including persons who are the sole caregiver for a dependent who must self-isolate because they meet the public health criteria, and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while they are self-isolated.

– It will be distributed in one payment instalment and will bridge the gap until the federal emergency payments begin in April.

– We expect the program to be accessible by a simple online application through alberta.ca next week and that funds will be deposited in the accounts of eligible recipients beginning at that time.

Utility payment holiday

– Residential, farm, and small commercial customers can defer bill payments for the next 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off from these services during this time of crisis.

– This will cover electricity and natural gas, regardless of the service provider.

Student loans repayment holiday

– The government will implement a six-month, interest-free moratorium on Alberta student loan payments for all individuals who are in the process of repaying these loans.

Kenney said ATB Financial customers can apply for a deferral on ATB loans, lines of credit and mortgages for up to six months. Small business customers will have access to more working capital.

Employers will see deferred collection of corporate income tax and instalment payments, due after today, until Aug. 31, 2020, at which time the situation will be further assessed, Kenney said.

He also said he has urged the federal government not to increase the carbon tax as scheduled April 1.

“That would make absolutely no sense,” Kenney said about a carbon tax increase, adding he has urged the federal government to “please stop doing harm” to a fragile economy.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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