Alberta Government distributes vaccines and financial supports but restrictions press on

·3 min read

On December 8th of 2020 the provincial government announced sweeping restrictions that many Albertans thought would only be in place for 4 weeks. However, as we rang in the New Year, most restrictions pressed on and Albertans had to readjust to a new pandemic plan. In early February, a 4 phase system for easing restrictions was announced by the provincial government. We are currently in Step 1 of the ‘Path Forward,’ which allows for in-person dining with one’s own household, increased team sport opportunities for children, and one-on-one indoor fitness training by appointment. According to the Alberta government website, indoor social gatherings will not begin to be allowed until Step 3, and those required to work from home will not be allowed back into regular workplaces until Step 4. The website specifies a minimum of three weeks between each phase, meaning they won’t consider entering phase two until next week, but changes are also based on a continual reduction in the hospitalization numbers.

The ‘path forward’ comes with challenges, but the government is also attempting to relieve some of the related burden. An announcement was made February 10th outlining the critical worker benefit, a one-time payment of $1,200 to “recognize critical workers… for putting themselves at risk on the job during the pandemic.” In June 2020, the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant was announced to help thousands of businesses safely reopen and rehire staff. This program was expanded in January 2021 to ensure new businesses have access to the support they need. The grant provides up to $15,000 worth of funding per business based on possible lost revenue and can be used to pay employee wages, purchase personal protective equipment, pay rent, replace inventory and more. This program will conclude in the Spring, and just last week the government announced that it will be replaced by Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit which begins in April. According to the new release “businesses that can demonstrate a revenue reduction of 60 per cent or more will be eligible to receive 15 per cent of their monthly revenue, up to a maximum of $10,000”. The purpose of the new program is to fill any gaps left by federal programs short falls. Businesses who apply will have to “report the total amount of provincial and federal support received, to ensure no more than 80 per cent of revenue is covered”.

Other tools used to reduce pressure during the pandemic include freezing the education property tax rates, and ensuring employees are entitled to 14 days of unpaid, job-protected leave if they are required to quarantine or need to tend to pandemic related family responsibilities (i.e. caring for children in quarantine). If you, your family members, or your business have used some of these services feel free to write into the Star and tell us about your positive or negative experiences with provincial and federal support during the pandemic.

Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star