Alberta tempers lockdown with expanded relief

Alberta issues last call for bars and restaurants, curtails retail, but expands business aid package as virus cases soar

Western Investor
December 9, 2020

Teralyn Chapman and Mike Dadural shop in St. Albert before lockdown.  Jessica Nelson/ St. Albert Gaz
— Teralyn Chapman and Mike Dadural shop in St. Albert before lockdown. Jessica Nelson/ St. Albert Gaz

Alberta has shut down bars and restaurants and has limited retail and grocery store businesses to 15 per cent of capacity as it aims to flatten an “alarming” pandemic curve.

In addition, all employees must work at home unless an employer requires a physical presence for operation of the business. The expanded regulations come into effect December 13 and will remain in force for at least four weeks.

“This is moving from a recommendation from two weeks ago to a legal requirement,” Premier Jason Kenney said on December 8.

On that day there were 20,388 active cases in Alberta, including 1,727 new cases identified over the previous 24 hours. This is the highest per-capita ratio in the country. There are 654 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 112 in intensive care. Alberta’s death toll due to COVID-19 has grown to 640 persons.

Ski hills can remain open, as can hotels, but social distancing and other measures will curtail normal business. Health care services, as well as emergency shelters and child-care centres will remain open.

“Alberta Health will work with operators to develop plans to avoid crowding and maintain safety measures,” he said. “Hotels but will have to close pools, fitness centres, related services and restaurants.”

Services such as entertainment facilities, casinos, libraries, museums, theatres and private clubs will also be closed. Travel shows and conference centres are shut down.

Indoor recreation facilities, including fitness centres, gyms, swimming pools and skating rinks, will also be closed for the next four weeks.

Personal and wellness services such as hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage, tattoo and piercing studios, must also shut their doors.

“Many restaurants and similar operations have told us because they cannot pay their own bills right now, that this will allow them to fully access the federal supports and provincial supports as we get through the difficult following weeks,” Kenney said.

Alberta has expanded its Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant, which helps small and medium businesses in the wake of further COVID-19 restrictions.

Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, said up to 15,000 more businesses may be eligible for funding.

"We have reports saying that 40 per cent of these small businesses may not be able to turn the lights back on if we don't provide them with supports," Schweitzer said.

The program will expand to include businesses that have experienced revenue losses of at least 30 per cent due to the pandemic, lowering the threshold from the former requirement of 40 per cent revenue losses.

Job creators that meet the program’s eligibility criteria can apply for 15 per cent of their pre-COVID-19 monthly revenue up to a maximum of $20,000 since the program launched.

Businesses will be eligible to apply for a second payment through the program, for a total of up to $20,000 in potential funding each, up from the original $5,000.

Up until now, Kenney said the government had preferred to take a regional approach with its COVID-19 restrictions, but concluded this is no longer a viable option. He noted that nearly every Albertan now lives in an area with a relatively high COVID case count.

 “The virus is spreading at an alarming rate in every region of the province,” the premier said.

- With files from St. Albert Gazette

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