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Rosin: COVID 19 Supports: for individuals and businesses

It has been a scary month for many in our world as governments try to contain the spread of COVID-19. Areas of our Banff-Kananaskis riding have been disproportionately hard hit amidst this crisis. For towns like Canmore, Banff, and even Bragg Creek to a certain extent, being visitor economies caught in the center of a global health crisis has put many in a uniquely vulnerable position. High visitation brings high risk of contact with the virus, yet without that visitation our tourism economies are collapsing. In Banff, the unemployment rate is now hovering around 85%.

Our government has been working around the clock to ensure the health, financial security, and economic future of everyone in this province. Many of you will need support during these times, and our government is doing what we can to assist. Navigating the onslaught of constant news updates can be difficult, so I hope the summarized information below will help.

For individuals in self isolation and unable to work, $50 million has been made available for one-time payments of $1,146. Federal emergency support payments will not flow until mid-April, so this will provide immediate cash availability for you who need it. All electricity and natural gas utilities are now eligible for a 90 day deferral, regardless of your provider. All loans, lines of credit, and mortgage payments from ATB have been made eligible for a six month deferral, and a six month interest-free moratorium on student loan payments has also been implemented. Further, all residential education tax increases have been cancelled and will be frozen at the 2019 rate.

If you are a business owner, we have suspended all corporate tax collection until August 31. We estimate this will free up $1.5 billion for small, medium, and large sized businesses to keep Albertans working. You may defer all of your WCB premiums until 2021, and if you are a small or medium sized business owner, our government will cover 50% of your premiums. You may now also defer your commercial education taxes for six months.

If you work in the energy industry, we have extended all mineral agreements set to expire in 2020 by a year to provide certainty and additional time to raise capital, and will be covering the Alberta Energy Regulator fee for six months to give $113 million of financial relief to the industry.

When it comes to accessible healthcare being provided to Albertans, we have increased the healthcare budget by $500 million, tripled the capacity of the 811 call line, instituted new billing codes allowing physicians to take virtual and telephone appointments while maintaining healthy social distance, extended job-protected leave to 14 days for those of you needing to self isolate, and created a mental health texting line at 393939. We are also conducting more COVID-19 tests than anywhere else in Canada, and are conducting more tests per capita than almost anywhere in the entire United States.

These are challenging times for everyone, but the cumulative above measures have been the most robust counter-stimulus package in Albertan history, and our government will spare nothing to ensure that our people and businesses get through this. As Albertans, we have faced adversity before, and we have overcome. Similarly now, with support from each other, our governments, our faith communities, and our civil societies, I know we will overcome COVID-19 too. Resilience and self-determination are in our DNA, and I know that we will get through this together, even if it isn’t easy.

In the meantime - stay safe, wash your hands, and reach out to those around you. Social distancing does not mean social isolation, and there are many people out there who may need support and encouragement

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