Weekly Digest – 22 December 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward. This is the last weekly digest for the year. We hope you have a relaxing holiday break and we’ll be back with more updates in the New Year.

Mandatory COVID-19 Tests for Short Trips Across Border

From 21 December, all Canadians returning from short trips to the US must take a molecular pre-entry test. The rule applies even to fully vaccinated travelers, and is intended to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.

This comes less than a month after the government announced that it would no longer require a negative PCR COVID-19 test for shorter cross-border trips.

More Than 1 Million Additional Child COVID-19 Vaccines

A shipment of 1.136 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine arrived in Canada on Monday. The government said it will work closely with provinces to distribute the doses. Earlier this year, Canada received 2.9 million pediatric vaccine doses.

Retails Sales Increase 1.6% in October

Retail sales advanced 1.6% in October to $57.61 billion, supported by increased activity at new-car dealerships, according to Statistics Canada. Core retail sales which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers, increased 1.5%.

Government Invests in Canola Exports

The government announced an investment of more than $1.8 million to Canola Council of Canada (CCC) under the AgriMarketing Program to boost exports. The CCC will use thie funding to strengthen its promotion of the benefits of canola products in Asia and North America, and help the industry towards the CCC’s goal of reaching 26 million tonnes of production by 2025.

COVID-19 Recovery Programs

Below are some of the COVID-19 support schemes available for Canadian businesses:

  • Subsidy rate for the Canada Recovery Hiring Program increased from 20% to 50%. Applications for period 22 are now open, covering the period of 24 October to 20 November.
  • The Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program provides support through wage and rent subsidies of up to 75%. Applications for period 22 are now open, covering the period of 24 October to 20 November.
  • The Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program provides support through wage and rent subsidies of up to 50%. Applications for period 22 are now open, covering the period of 24 October to 20 November.
  • The monthly cap on eligible rent expenses that can be claimed is increased from $300,000 to $1 million.

These COVID-19 programs are extended until 7 May 2022, with the authority to further extend them, through regulation, until 2 July 2022.

Ontario Extends Paid Sick Leave Program Into 2022

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton is extending the pandemic paid sick leave to 31 July. Originally, the provincial program was supposed to wrap up on 31 December. However, with the more contagious Omicron variant, the Labour Minister announced that it would continue.

Shift in COVID-19 Support Programs

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the shift in the government’s COVID-19 support programs from passive ones to those that incentivize work reflects Canada’s success in fighting the pandemic.

The new measures are aimed at replacing the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS). which expired on Saturday.

It was announced last week that the federal government is spending $7.4 billion to extend and create new COVID-19 support schemes for hard-hit businesses and workers that will carry into the spring.

Skilled Trades Training

The government has announced funding of nearly $890,000 for the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades in order to support the implementation of online learning. This investment is intended to help develop a highly qualified skilled trades workforce, and prepare Canadians to fill available jobs as our economy restarts.

Alberta Expands Financial Support Program to SMEs

Alberta is expanding its Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant to include another payment of up to $10,000 for eligible businesses. This marks the third time the $10,000 payment has been made available to Alberta organizations. It will also be available to businesses that started operating between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.

The Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant offers financial assistance to Alberta businesses that experienced at least a 30% decline in revenue because they were ordered to shut down or limit operations due to COVID-19.

HASCAP Loan Applications

Loan applications from the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) opened February 1.

Loans start at between $25,000 and $1 million for a single business depending on the size of the operation, and run up to $6.25 million for companies with multiple locations like a chain of hotels or restaurants. Interest rates are set at 4% across the board, terms will be up to 10 years, with up to a 12-month postponement of principal payments at the start of the loan.

To be eligible, companies will have to show a year-over-year revenue drop of at least 50% over three months, not necessarily consecutive, in the eight months before the application.

Further details can be found here.

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