April 16, 2020 COVID-19 Update

As the COVID-19 situation in Canada and around the world continues to develop rapidly, we are providing our fourteenth update to employers. Below is an important update on the expansion of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit ("CERB") and additional news arising from Ontario, BC, and Saskatchewan. We will continue to provide information as it becomes available and we remain available to you to answer any specific questions you may have.
Federal - Expansion of the CERB Program
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on April 15, 2020 an expansion to the eligibility and availability of CERB.  CERB eligibility will now be expanded to:
  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB;
  • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak; and
  • Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
These changes are retroactive to March 15, 2020 and additional details will be forthcoming.
Federal - Wage Boosts for Essential Workers Forthcoming
The Prime Minister also announced that the Federal government will be working with the provinces and territories to top up the pay of low-income essential workers  (i.e. those earning less than $2,500 per month). While specifics have not yet been provided, the government has provided examples of front-line workers that may be eligible for the top up:
  • Front-line hospital staff;
  • Persons caring for seniors in long-term care facilities;
  • Persons "working so hard to make sure that there is food on our shelves and tables".
Greater specifics will be forthcoming as the Federal government works with the provincial and territorial governments to develop this program. The Federal government also confirmed it will work with BC and Quebec's existing direct wage support for low-income workers in the essential services sector.
Federal - New Federal Mental Health Portal
The Prime Minister further announced a new portal for mental health resources is in development, which will be accessible via Canada.ca or via the Canada COVID-19 app. Human Resources or other business professionals may wish to direct or other persons struggling with mental health during this time to these freely available resources.
Ontario - Developments to Support Long-Term Care Facilities
The Ontario government announced on April 15, 2020 an enhanced plan to address COVID-19 at the province's long-term care facilities, entitled " COVID-19 action plan: long-term care homes". Among the items in "version 1" of the Plan is an emphasis on increased testing at these facilities and the expansion of "surveillance activities". 
Ontario employers in this industry will want to take note of action item 3, which states the province's intention to supplement long-term care home capacity by:
  • Redeploying health care workers from areas in the health sector experiencing fewer patient volumes, including hospital and home care resources, into long-term care homes;
  • Utilizing a job matching portal to identify available resources for homes experiencing shortages, supplementing it with the Federal government HR portal when it goes live;
  • Providing emergency funding for infection prevention and containment to homes, which can be used for hiring additional or replacement staff, or for topping up part-time workers to full-time hours, along with other options; and
  • Working with the federal government to determine how their recently announced initiative to top-up wages for essential health care workers can be used in Ontario to support long-term care staff.
(The foregoing is adapted from the Ontario government website).
The Action Plan also reiterates an intention to expand long-term care testing for residents and staff. Premier Doug Ford announced on April 15, 2020 increased provincial emphasis on testing continues to focus on long-term care facilities, noting that 18% of all homes have the presence of a COVID-19 infection. 
BC and Saskatchewan - Extended States of Emergency
On April 15, 2020, both the provinces of BC and Saskatchewan formally extended their respective states of emergency for an additional two (2) weeks to the end of day on April 28, 2020.
We will continue to provide you with updated information as it becomes available.  As always, do not hesitate to contact us if you have specific questions about your workplace.

The information in this update is intended as general information and should not relied on as legal advice.