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Saskatchewan rolls out financial support plan amid COVID-19 pandemic

WATCH: Saskatchewan government COVID-19 update for March 20, 2020.

As the number of presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan reached 26,  Premier Scott Moe announced a new financial support plan to help employers and employees in the province impacted by COVID-19.

The plan includes a self-isolation support program that will provide residents, who are not covered by recently announced federally employment insurance programs, with $450 a week for a maximum of two weeks.

READ MORE: Number of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan rises to 26, 8 confirmed

The program is expected to cost $10 million. Here are the criteria for eligibility:

  • They have contracted COVID-19 or are showing symptoms;
  • They have been in contact with an individual infected with COVID-19;
  • They have recently returned from international travel and have been required to self-isolate;
  • They are not eligible for compensation including sick leave, vacation leave from their employer
  • They do not have private insurance covering such disruptions
  • They are not covered by other programs such as federal employment insurance that has been updated.
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Also included in the province’s financial support plan is a three-month PST remittance deferral and audit suspension.

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Businesses in the province unable to remit their PST due to cash flow issues won’t have to pay any penalties or interest charges.

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Businesses unable to file their provincial tax returns on time can submit a request for relief from any penalties and interest charges on their return.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan declares state of emergency as coronavirus concerns grow

The province’s audit program and compliance activities have also been suspended.

The plan also includes a crown utility deferral program – making the program available to all crown utility customers. The program waives interest on late bill payments for up to six months.

A sixth-month student loan repayment moratorium is also included in the plan. It provides students with relief at a cost of $4 million to the provincial government.

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Changes to the Saskatchewan Employment Act are also part of the province’s plan. They involve:

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  • Ensure that during a public emergency, businesses will not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice when they lay-off staff if it is for a period of 12 weeks or less in a 16-week period.
  • And if an employer lays off employees periodically for a total of more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, the employees are considered to be terminated and are entitled to pay instead of notice as outlined in the Act.  This will be calculated from the date on which the employee was laid off.

The province is also establishing a business response team, led by the ministry of trade and export development.

It will work with businesses to identify program supports, allowing them to access information and receive timely updates on provincial support initiatives.

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“During this time of great uncertainty, it is of the utmost importance that Saskatchewan people know their government is here to provide support,” Moe said.  “This plan supports businesses and employees. Most importantly, it supports the opportunity to come back to work when we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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