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Coronavirus: N.S. boosts support for businesses, freezes provincial student loan payments

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WATCH: Nova Scotia will temporarily freeze payments for those paying off their provincial student loans – Mar 20, 2020

The Nova Scotia government is committing millions of dollars to small and medium businesses while also temporarily freezing payments for those paying off their provincial student loans.

Business Minister Geoff MacLellan announced on Friday that the province is committing $161 million to “immediately address cash flow and access to credit for Nova Scotia small and medium size enterprises.”

“We will defer payments and interest for government loans, including those under the jobs fund, the Municipal Finance Corporation, and Housing Nova Scotia,” MacLellan announced.

READ MORE: N.S. bans evictions while committing funds to Feed Nova Scotia, income assistance

The government will also defer workers’ compensation premiums and business-related fees, MacLellan added, saying a list of those fees will be posted online in the coming days.

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MacLellan then announced that loan payments under the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program administered through the Nova Scotia credit unions will also be deferred until June 30.

“We are enhancing that very program, making it easier for small businesses to access credit up to $500,000,” he said. “For those who might not otherwise qualify for a loan, government will guarantee the first $100,000.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia reports 2 new presumptive cases of COVID-19' Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia reports 2 new presumptive cases of COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia reports 2 new presumptive cases of COVID-19 – Mar 19, 2020

The government is adding an extra $15 million to its $46 million already committed to expanding internet access across the province, in order to help small businesses working from home.

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“Increased internet access in more areas will help more businesses tap into e-commerce in a time of social distancing, and allow people to work more easily from home,” MacLellan said.

Following the announcement for small and medium businesses, Premier Stephen McNeil said the province plans to lay out an “aggressive package of capital projects,” with more on that matter on Monday.

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McNeil also said provincial student loan payments will be suspended for six months, starting March 30. Students don’t have to apply, as the pause is automatic.

N.S. COVID-19 cases hit 15 

The province identified one new case of the novel coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 15.

There are now five confirmed cases and 10 presumptive in Nova Scotia. The individuals diagnosed range in age from their mid-20s to mid-70s.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Public Health is working to contact anyone who may have come in close contact with them and is recommending they self-isolate for a period of 14 days.

As of Friday the province has carried out 1,561 tests for COVID-19 — 1,546 of them have been negative.

READ MORE: Make time to take care of your mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

On Thursday the province announced a host of new policies in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Chief among them was an initiative that ruled tenants impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak can’t be evicted. The province Department of Community Services Minister Kelly Regan says the investment in Feed Nova Scotia will allow the non-profit to purchase food and hire additional staff to support their operations.

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“In these extraordinary times we need to ensure that community resources like food banks are able to continue their operations and expand their reach,” Regan said. also committed $1 million to food banks across the province.

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