On March 23, 2020, the British Columbia government took the first steps to support people and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. British Columbians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will benefit from $5 billion in income supports, tax relief and direct funding for people, businesses and services. This plan includes measures of interest to employers, employees and payroll.
Financial and other measures for individuals
1. new Emergency Benefit for Workers
A new Emergency Benefits for Workers is being implemented and will provide a tax-free $1,000 payment to British Columbians whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak. The benefit will be a one-time payment for British Columbians who receive federal Employment Insurance (EI), or the new federal Emergency Care Benefit or Emergency Support Benefit as a result of COVID-19 impacts.
This includes workers who have been laid-off, who are sick or quarantined, parents with sick children, parents who stay at home from work while child care centres and schools are closed, and those caring for sick family members, such as an elderly parent. The workers can be EI-eligible and non-EI eligible, such as the self-employed. The benefit will be paid to BC residents, in addition to their federal income supports.
2. Increasing and expanding the Climate Action Tax Credit
The plan takes further steps to boost income supports by increasing and expanding the BC Climate Action Tax Credit in July 2020. As many as 86 percent of British Columbians will see some extra money from this enhancement, including:
- Eligible families of four will receive up to $564 and
- Eligible individuals will receive up to $218 in an enhanced payment.
This boosts the regular climate action tax credit payment of up to $112.50 per family of four and up to $43.50 per adult.
3. Deferral programs at ICBC and BC Hydro
British Columbians needing more time to pay their bills can also apply to existing payment deferral programs at ICBC and BC Hydro. ICBC is extending deferrals to up to 90 days. People dealing with job loss, illness or loss of wages due to COVID-19 may also qualify for BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund grant program for up to $600.
4. Financial and other measures for business
Deferral of employer health tax payments and other taxes
Effective immediately (March 23, 2020), businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until September 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt from the tax.
In addition to the employer health tax, the Province is
- Extending tax filing and payment deadlines for the provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax until September 30, 2020.
- The scheduled April 1 increase to the provincial carbon tax, as well as the new PST registration requirements on e-commerce and the implementation of PST on sweetened carbonated drinks, will be delayed and their timing will be reviewed by September 30, 2020.
School tax cut relief
Business and light- and major-industry property classes will see their school tax cut in half. This will provide $500 million in immediate relief for business that own their property and allow commercial landlords to immediately pass savings on to their tenants in triple-net leases.
In the longer term, the recovery plan will dedicate funding to particularly hard-hit parts of the economy, such as the tourism, hospitality and culture sectors. The B.C. government is partnering with business and labour leaders to build an economic stimulus plan. The Province has allocated $1.5 billion for economic recovery.
5. Orders from the government
On March 21, 2020, the provincial health officer verbally ordered that all “personal service establishments,” such as hair salons, nail salons, massage, tattoo parlours and spas, close immediately.
Holders of “liquor primary” business licenses which do not serve meals (i.e. serve appetizers and snacks only) must close, with some exceptions such as retail licensees.
On March 26, 2020, the government published a list of essential services in British Columbia. According to the government, the publication of this list does not order the closure of businesses not defined as “essential.”
Non-essential services may continue to operate (if they have not previously been ordered to close, such as bars and restaurants, provided the business adheres to the orders of the Provincial Health Officer, which includes social distancing of 1-2 metres between people on the premises.
The government ordered that employers operating Long Term Care Facilities, Private Hospitals, and Assisted Living Residences to restrict the movement of employees between facilities. Generally, employees may be only assigned to work at and from one facility. This requirement does not currently include employees of contractors, or subcontractors, at the facility.
The Workers Compensation Board has postponed premium deadlines for employers and personal optional protection coverage holders until June 30, 2020.
For employment standard measures for employers and employees see 2. Employment/labour standards and HR management below.
Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, issued a series of orders in response to COVID-19. First, the government established a Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution, and to allow the delivery of goods at any time of day. The government banned the resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and other essential supplies, and restricted the quantity of these items that may be purchased. Provincial health officer’s orders may now be enforced by municipal bylaw officers. The government also suspended local states of emergency, except in the City of Vancouver. More on these orders can be found here.
March 27, 2020: Limitation periods to commence court proceedings in British Columbia have been suspended, and statutory decision-makers have been provided discretion to waive, suspend or extend time periods related to their powers.
March 28, 2020: Bonnie Henry ordered that all episodic vending markets (such as farmers markets) must only allow vendors to serve food at these events. Vendors of all other merchandise are prohibited at these events.
March 29, 2020: The Minister of Citizens’ Services made an order enabling the broader use of communication tools for health-care workers and other public-sector staff who are responding to COVID-19 under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act.
March 30, 2020: Youth and young adults that are receiving care through government assistance will continue receiving the same level of service and will continue to reside where they are during the pandemic, even if they were set to age out. Effective April 1, 2020, pay parking is temporarily suspended at all health authority owned and operated sites.
On March 31, 2020, the British Columbia government has formally extended the provincial state of emergency to support the provincewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, through the end of the day on April 14, 2020. The extension of the provincial state of emergency is based on recommendations from BCs health and emergency management officials.
On April 2, 2020, the British Columbia government announced that individuals currently receiving income assistance or disability assistance, the Province will temporarily exempt federal employment insurance benefits, including the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). These payments will be fully exempted for the next three months so people receiving income assistance and disability assistance in BC will benefit from these new emergency federal support programs, without any reductions to their monthly assistance payments.
For everyone on income assistance or disability assistance who is not eligible for the emergency federal support programs, including the CERB, the Province will provide an automatic $300-monthly COVID-19 crisis supplement for the next three months. This supplement will also be provided to low-income seniors who receive the BC Senior’s Supplement and recipients of income assistance or disability assistance who reside in special care facilities.
The government issued a Ministerial Order designating essential services in British Columbia. The government has not ordered that non-essential services cease operating in the province. The order states that essential service providers cannot be held liable for damages caused by exposure to COVID-19 while a state of emergency is in force. Immunity from liability is conditional on an essential service being operated or provided “in accordance with all applicable emergency and public health guidance”, or a reasonable belief that the service being operated or provided was in accordance with such guidance. A business will not have immunity if they exercised gross negligence.
Furthermore, a new Economic Recovery Task Force will bring together leaders from business, labour, First Nations and not-for-profits to help ensure the Province’s economic response to COVID-19 is effective and responsive to the needs of British Columbians. The task force will help advise the cross-government economic response and recovery solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. The task force will begin its work starting Thursday, April 2, 2020.
On April 7, 2020, the British Columbia government announced that most open burning activities will be prohibited throughout British Columbia as of noon on April 16, 2020.
In addition, the Government of British Columbia acquired 900 spaces at 23 sites for individuals who need a place to self-isolate. The list of spaces and more details can be found here.
On April 8, 2020, the British Columbia government announced that all BC residents returning to British Columbia from international travel will be required to register a plan on the measures they will take to self-isolate and quarantine for at least 14 days. The plan must be acceptable to, and approved by, provincial or federal border officials at the point of entry. The government has not yet clarified how this requirement applies to those providing essential services in the province. The Premier stated that failure to submit an acceptable plan may result in the resident being put into quarantine at a public facility.
British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer (“PHO”) released a “Travellers and Employers” Order. Pursuant to the Order, persons entering British Columbia through the Vancouver International Airport, or other points of entry, must submit an approved 14 day self-isolation plan. However, different requirements apply to certain employees of “Essential Services.”
The Order also permits “Essential Workers” of Essential Services who are asymptomatic to continue to attend at work. “Essential Services” are defined in Appendix B to an associated Guidance Document. To characterize an employee as an Essential Worker, employers must determine whether the employee (returning from international travel for the purpose of providing the Essential Service), is critical to providing the Essential Service, such that a 14 day period of self-isolation would unreasonably impede delivery of the Essential Service. The Order sets out various principles that employers must consider to make this determination. Even though an Essential Worker is permitted to continue to provide the Essential Service, the Essential Worker is required to self-isolate during non-working hours, maintain hygienic standards, monitor for symptoms, and refrain from attending work if symptoms of illness develop.
The British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) extended statutory deadlines and waived fees for those struggling financially. The CRT has extended deadlines for respondents who are impacted by the pandemic until at least May 15, 2020. For this reason, the CRT will not process new applications for default decisions and orders from March 18, 2020, until at least May 15, 2020. A default decision is when the CRT decides in favour of an applicant because the other party did not respond to the dispute by the deadline.
Also on April 8, BC Parks closed all provincial parks. Overnight camping and motorized recreation (including the use of off-road vehicles) is restricted in the Koocanusa area for spring and summer.
On April 9, 2020, the government posted new COVID-19 guidelines for operating businesses in the hotel sector.
On April 12, 2020, the Province and Creative BC support musicians impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with new grants for livestreaming:
The government has also issued a statement from Dr. Bonnie Henry on non-medical cloth masks during COVID-19:
April 14, 2020: All temporary foreign workers will be required to self-isolate in government-managed accommodations for 14 days before being transported to farms throughout British Columbia.
In addition, the Provincial Health Officer issued a revised Travellers and Employers Order, which revises the previous Travellers and Employers Order made April 10, 2020. More information here.
On April 15, 2020, the British Columbia government extended its declaration of a state of emergency, until April 28, 2020.
In addition, the government of British Columbia will install portable toilets at vehicle pull-outs and inspection stations to improve travel for commercial truck drivers.
The Government of British Columbia temporarily extended hours of retail liquor service to provide a greater opportunity for physical distancing for seniors and people who are immunocompromised. Delivery services are also authorized to purchase unopened liquor products from a liquor store during the same extended hours. More information here.
The Provincial Health Officer issued a revised Facility Staff Assignment Order, which amends a prior order made April 10, 2020, to enable long term care facility workers to work at a single facility.
April 16, 2020: The Government of British Columbia launched the B.C. Business COVID-19 Support Service to act as a one-stop resource to answer questions about supports available to businesses from the provincial and federal governments, industry and community partners. More information can be found here.
April 17, 2020: The Provincial Health Officer published an order requiring that Personal Services businesses, including services related to hair, skin, nails and others part of the body, body modification, floatation tanks, cosmetic laser services and electrolysis, cease operating until further notice.
The Provincial Health Officer published a second order limiting the merchandise that may be sold at vending merchandise markets (i.e. open air markets) to food products. Physical distancing measures at those sites must be provided, and facilities for on-site dining, such as picnic tables and chairs, must be removed.
Finally, the Provincial Health Officer published an order amending previous orders and directions to restrict health care workers from working at multiple health care facilities. The amended order extends the class of facilities to include extended care hospitals, and provides additional directions to Regional Health Boards and Medical Health Officers to facilitate the restriction of movement of health care workers between facilities.
On April 20, 2020, Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, has given police and other enforcement officers the ability to issue $2,000 violation tickets for price gouging and the reselling of medical supplies and other essential goods during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective immediately, these new measures are enacted under the provincial state of emergency, using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act (EPA) in ongoing support of the Province’s all-of-society approach to COVID-19 response and recovery.
The Province is calling upon compliance staff from provincial ministries and local governments to support enforcement for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency. This includes municipal bylaw officers, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gaming inspectors, conservation officers, community safety unit inspectors, park rangers, natural resource officers, commercial vehicle safety officials and sheriffs.
If required, police and other enforcement officers will also be able to actively enforce and ticket those who:
- exceed the quantity limits on the sale of specified items; and
- do not comply with the requirement for hotel and other lodging operators to provide accommodation at the request of the Province to serve as self-isolation facilities or to support essential workers.
The Province is also working with Consumer Protection BC (CPBC) to keep British Columbians safe from businesses and individuals who are trying to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic. CPBC will be the first and main point of contact for all complaints related to price gouging of essential goods and supplies, and will ensure those complaints are resolved appropriately in co-ordination with police and enforcement officers.
The Government of British Columbia also partnered with the First Nations Health Authority and launched a framework to ensure the wellbeing of rural and remote Indigenous communities (link).
April 20, 2020: All individuals that attended the Kearl Lake project near Fort McMurray, Alberta from March to present were ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.
The Government of British Columbia also partnered with the District of Squamish and Squamish Helping Hands Society to provide 49 new temporary homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the community.
On April 23, 2020, the Provincial Health Officer published an Order for employers in the forestry, agriculture, and aquamarine industries that operate industrial camps.
The government published new guidelines for employees, operators and contractors working in the silviculture sector, including guidelines on:
- screening workers for symptoms or potential COVID-19 exposure;
- added hygiene measures in camps;
- training workers on how to stay safe while travelling to camps and to worksites;
- food preparation guidelines;
- limiting travel outside of camps; and
- having at least one infection and control co-ordinator at each site.
On April 29, 2020, the government extended the provincial State of Emergency until May 12, 2020.
Premier Horgan announced that he anticipates certain orders for the relaxation of public health restrictions next week. The Premier indicated that physical distancing requirements will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future, and that businesses should consider operating online services to the greatest extent possible. He also indicated that the government is considering amendments to employment standards legislation that will provide for paid sick leave, without indicating who would bear the cost of such leave.
May 1, 2020: The Government of British Columbia will permit local governments to hold public hearings electronically.
During the weekend of May 2 to May 3rd, the British Columbia government published new guidelines (PDF) for operating hotel, motel and other travel accommodation businesses, which include:
- guidelines for physical distancing;
- guidelines for hygiene and environmental cleaning;
- guidelines for accommodating guests in self-isolation; and
- guidelines for providing food and beverage services to guests.
On May 4, 2020, the British Columbia enacted amendments to the temporary layoff rules under the Employment Standards Act. See Employment/labour standards and HR management for details.
On May 4, 2020, Premier Horgan announced BC’s four phase “Restart Plan,” which will involve the government lifting restrictions on businesses in phases, gradually allowing for more social and economic activity. BC is currently in Phase 1, and will likely enter Phase 2 in mid-May. Under Phase 2, businesses ordered to close may reopen provided they work with WorkSafeBC to develop a plan to reopen safely. The plan will launched and detailed on May 6, 2020. For more, see Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of.
May 5, 2020: The Government of British Columbia announced the establishment of an emergency response centre to provide temporary accommodation for individuals experiencing homelessness.
On May 6, 2020, the British Columbia government launched a 4-phase plan for economic recovery and transition towards a “new normal.” For more, see Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of.
On May 11, 2020, the British Columbia government amended the Employment and Assistance Regulation to, among other things, temporarily exempt amounts received from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit from disentitling or affecting recipients’ entitlement to provincial employment assistance.
The British Columbia government also announced publication of a report from the provincial Innovation Commissioner intended to facilitate the innovation and growth of BC companies.
On May 13, 2020, the British Columbia government extended the provincial state of emergency until May 26, 2020.
On May 19, 2020, the British Columbia government announced it will provide a Pandemic Pay Premium for employees in health, social services and corrections operations.
On the weekend of May 23-24, 2020, the British Columbia government amended its Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people in order to permit more than 50 people to be gathered in certain circumstances. Details are provided in the Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of section of this page.
On May 26, 2020, the British Columbia government released a joint statement with the premiers of the Yukon and Manitoba in support of the federal government’s May 25, 2020 announcement regarding a paid sick leave program.
On May 27, 2020, WorkSafeBC announced it will be waiving premiums for employers who have been approved to receive the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). The waiver will apply to premiums payable for workers on leave with pay or partial pay. The waiver will be retroactive to March 15, 2020, and will continue for the duration of the CEWS program.
The Solicitor General extended the provincial State of Emergency until June 9, 2020.
On May 28, 2020, British Columbians are now able to access a new online resource that will make it easier to learn about jobs and careers in agriculture, while providing farmers, seafood businesses and food processors with a one-stop shop to support their hiring and planning needs.
The new BC Farm, Fish and Food Job Connector will showcase current job vacancies throughout the province, including those for crop and seafood harvesters, food processing and farm workers, agrologists, large machinery operators and marketing specialists. The site also has sector-specific information and guidance to support businesses as they adapt their recruitment and human resource management in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 1, 2020, the British Columbia government issued an Order which limits the ability of landlords to evict employer or commercial tenants. Eligible businesses whose landlords did not apply for the federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program will be protected from evictions until the province’s State of Emergency expires or the CECRA program expires, whichever is earlier.
On June 5, 2020, the British Columbia government announced that it would increase funding for “Buy BC” e-commerce products, which includes farm, food, and agricultural products. The government is providing an additional $250,000 to support industry-led Buy BC activities focused on e-commerce, for a total of $550,000 under government’s Buy BC Partnership Program. The program provides financial support for farmers and food and beverage processors to access and develop websites that help online sales. The program also helps cover the costs of marketing and shipping products to people throughout the province. The additional funding will help fund the applications that came in after the program was fully subscribed on May 15, 2020. No new applications will be accepted. The Province’s Buy BC Partnership Program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia. More about Buy BC here.
The government also announced that hospitality licensees who have suspended their operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be able to sell liquor stock to other licensees who are still operating and/or to private liquor stores. These changes will provide immediate financial relief for licensees unable to meet the guidelines and mandates established by the provincial health officer by allowing them to liquidate some inventory. This authorization is set to expire on July 15, 2020. However, as the pandemic is an evolving situation, LDB will review this and other temporary authorizations as necessary. Read LDB’s policy directive here.
Furthermore, a British Columbia Ministerial Order was extended permitting health-care workers, schools, and other public sectors to utilize certain third-party software and technology in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
On June 10, 2020, the British Columbia government extended the provincial state of emergency until June 23, 2020. Also, WorkSafeBC published a safety protocol for first aid during the COVID-19 pandemic. The protocol describes procedures that employers and employees should take when providing first aid, including cleaning and hygiene, and the provision of CPR.
On June 11, 2020, the British Columbia Solicitor General enacted the Protection Against Liability for Sports (COVID-19) Order. This Order immunizes sports organizations, directors, officers, employees and volunteers of sport organizations from liability for damages resulting directly or indirectly from exposure to COVID-19 as a result of the provision of an organized sport activity. This immunization is conditional on the organization providing the sport activity in compliance with all applicable emergency and public health guidance, or a reasonable belief that the activity was provided in accordance with such guidance, and excludes gross negligence.
The Provincial Health Officer published a revised Order affecting food service establishments and liquor services. Under the revised Order, businesses must calculate the maximum number of patrons and staff that can be accommodated on premises while standing or sitting 2-metres apart. This maximum must be recorded in the business’ COVID-19 Safety Plan, and this number of staff and patrons should not be exceeded on premises at any time. The revised Order also sets out additional orders relating to hygiene and physical distancing practices.
On June 17, 2020, British Columbians are invited to share their feedback as the Province continues to build a strong economic recovery that works for people.
There are three main ways for people to share their ideas, experiences and priorities:
- An online survey is the fastest and easiest way to provide answers to some important questions and give advice. Visit: http://gov.bc.ca/recoveryideas
- Respond to the paper, Building B.C.’s Recovery, Together: Have Your Say, which was released on Wednesday, June 17, 2020. Ideas and responses can be submitted to: [email protected]
- Participate in virtual town halls. British Columbians can learn more about the virtual town halls here: http://gov.bc.ca/recoveryideas
On June 21, 2020, the British Columbia government announced that businesses in mining, forestry and other eligible industries may defer BC Hydro payments until the end of August 2020. Repayment is to be made within the following 9 months, and is subject to interest.
On June 22, 2020, the British Columbia government announced proposed legislation which will enable certain COVID-19 measures and Orders to extend beyond the provincial State of Emergency, including:
- protection from civil liability for essential service businesses and amateur sports organizations which operate in accordance with public health orders and guidance; and
- amendments to limitation periods.
In addition, on June 22, 2020, the British Columbia government proposed a new piece of legislation aimed at creating a controlled end to the declared state of provincial emergency, which has been in effect since March 18, 2020. The COVID-19 Measures Act automatically incorporates and extends certain ministerial orders enacted under the Emergency Program Act, which would otherwise end immediately at the conclusion of the state of emergency.
The Act extends the following orders by 90 days after the end of the state of emergency:
- Electronic Attendance (COVID19) Orders (Strata Property Meetings, Corporate Meetings, Credit Union Meetings, Statutory Meetings)
- Local Government Meetings and Bylaw Process (COVID19) Order Nos. 2 & 3
- Bylaw Enforcement Officer (COVID19) Order
- Local Authorities and Essential Goods and Supplies (COVID19) Order
- Provincial Compliance Officer (COVID19) Order
- Limitation Periods (COVID19) Order No. 2
- Health Care Labour Adjustment (COVID19) Order
- Prohibition on Unconscionable Prices for Essential Goods and Supplies (COVID19) Order
- Employment and Assistance (COVID19) Order
- Local Government Finance (COVID19) Order
- Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID19) Order
- Electronic Attendance at UBCM Convention (COVID19) Order
- Protection Against Liability for Sports (COVID19) Order
The Act extends the following orders by 45 days after the end of the state of emergency:
- Limitation Periods (COVID19) Order
- Residential Tenancy (COVID19) Order
- Protection Against Liability (COVID19) Order Nos. 1 & 2
- Supreme Court Civil and Family Applications (COVID19) Order
- Encampment Health and Safety (COVID19) Orders (Nos. 1 & 2, Vancouver Enforcement Order, Victoria Enforcement Order)
Anticipating the potential for a second wave of COVID-19, the Act also provides the ability for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to extend all the foregoing orders for up to one year after the enactment of the Act, and may repeal any of the foregoing orders earlier than the 45 or 90 days provided in the Act. The Lieutenant Governor in Council also has the power under the Act to add orders to the Act that were made under the Emergency Program Act with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, the Act provides the Lieutenant Governor in Council the power to enact regulations that provide protection from civil liability flowing from the COVID-19 pandemic, except in circumstances of gross negligence.
The Act is anticipated to be read for a second time in the legislative assembly on June 23, 2020. We will provide a further update if and when the Act receives royal assent.
On June 24, 2020, the state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on July 7, 2020, allowing the British Columbia government to continue to take the necessary steps to keep British Columbians safe. On Monday, June 22, 2020, government introduced the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, legislation to allow provisions created for citizens and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to continue as needed after the provincial state of emergency ends (see above for details).
The Province is also maintaining the moratorium on rent increases and evictions for non-payment of rent. However, other notices to end tenancy may resume effectively immediately.
The moratorium on evictions has been in effect since March 30, 2020. As the Province moves forward with BC’s Restart Plan, the ban on evictions for reasons other than late payment or non-payment of rent has now been lifted.
The following tenancy laws are resuming:
- A landlord can now issue a Notice to End Tenancy for any reason (other than unpaid or late payment rent).
- Landlords with existing orders for eviction can take them to the courts beginning July 2, 2020, for enforcement and can enforce a writ order effective immediately.
- Landlords can enter a rental suite with 24-hour notice and do not need the tenant’s consent. They are expected to follow health guidelines like physical distancing, cleaning and wearing masks when appropriate.
- The change also allows for personal service of documents to resume.
Landlords’ ability to restrict access to common spaces for COVID-19 related health reasons remains. Information about changes to B.C.’s tenancy laws during COVID-19 can be found here.
Furthermore, new legislation confirms supports for people and businesses, while responding to the fiscal impacts of COVID-19 by allowing government to run deficit budgets. The amendments introduced authorize deficit budgets for the next three years, while the Province supports economic recovery from COVID-19. Additionally, the amendments allow government to continue to table supplementary estimates before the legislative assembly. The amendments also clarify the existing limits and uses of special warrants while the legislative assembly is not in session to maintain essential services and respond to provincial emergencies and disasters like a pandemic.
The Economic Stabilization Act brings the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers into law and updates the eligibility date to March 1, 2020. The change will allow people whose income is affected by COVID-19 and who filed federal employment insurance claims between March 1 and March 15 to benefit from the support. The application for these individuals will be available as of June 26, 2020. Almost 600,000 people have been approved to receive the benefit to date.
The legislation introduced also confirms many of the previously announced supports for people and business from the COVID-19 Action Plan, including:
- authorizing filing and payment deferrals for employer health tax, provincial sales tax, hotel tax, carbon tax, motor fuel tax and tobacco tax to Sept. 30, 2020;
- postponing the date that late payment penalties apply for commercial properties in classes 4,5,6,7 and 8 to Oct. 1, 2020, to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their reduced property tax, without penalty;
- allowing municipalities to keep school taxes and the police tax collected for the Province until January 2021; and
- requiring municipalities to remit taxes they collect for TransLink in July 2020 so it can continue operating, as well as allowing other municipalities to continue to make their service payments to BC Transit.
Other measures from the BC COVID-19 Action Plan are being done through regulation, such as reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties, enhancing the B.C. climate action tax credit and pausing BC student loan payments.
To determine your eligibility and apply for the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, visit: gov.bc.ca/workerbenefit
To learn more about the supports and services available for people, businesses and communities through the pandemic, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19
On June 25, 2020, the British Columbia government announced that the temporary layoff provisions under the Employment Standards Act (“ESA“) will be extended to 24 weeks, expiring on August 30, 2020. This is an extension from the ESA’s current limitation of 16 weeks. Layoffs which exceed the maximum duration of 24 weeks are deemed to terminate the employment relationship. You can read more under Employment /Labour Standards and HR Management.
On July 3, 2020, the British Columbia government reminded inland ferry passengers to adhere to Transport Canada’s COVID-19 safety protocols, which limit amenities, encourage the use of cloth masks and physical distancing, and prohibit access to persons with symptoms.
On July 6, 2020, the government announced that the temporary COVID-19 Crisis Supplement for eligible income and disability assistance recipients will be extended to the end of August 2020. The $300 supplement will be automatically applied to cheques distributed on July 22, 2020 and August 26, 2020.
On July 8, 2020, the British Columbia government extended the provincial state of emergency to July 21, 2020.
On July 10, 2020, the British Columbia COVID-19 Related Measures Act was brought into force by regulation. The Actallows certain emergency orders in response to the pandemic to be extended past the end of the provincial state of emergency by either 45 or 90 days. The Act also provides powers to the government to take certain emergency actions in the event of a second wave of COVID-19.
On July 14, 2020, the British Columbia government introduced proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act, including a proposed amendment which would eliminate the minimum 90 day waiting period for any regulation related to occupational disease caused by a communicable viral pathogen such as COVID-19.
For information on British Columbia’s reopening plan and measures see Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of.