New Restrictions and Expanded Benefit Programs
We once again find ourselves starting a new year with rising COVID-19 infection numbers and increasingly restrictive public health regulations, resulting in many arts and culture organizations closing their doors or reducing capacity, and many employed in our industry with canceled gigs and reduced hours. Thankfully, these restrictions come with a (temporary) expansion of government COVID-19 support programs for both organizations and individuals.
This Bulletin provides information on the new public health restrictions as they apply to the arts and culture sector, and some of the government benefit programs that will continue to support organizations and individuals during lockdown and beyond.
To keep up-to-the-minute on all the latest arts news and EC3 happenings, keep checking the EC3 Facebook page, @ECThreePtbo on Twitter, @ec3ptbo on Instagram, and the EC3 website, where we are providing daily updates on programs and services available for ACH workers and organizations.
Ontario Tightens Public Health Rules
On January 3, 2022, the Ontario government announced that the province is temporarily returning to a modified version of Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen. The new measures went into place as of 12:01AM on January 5, and will be in place for at least 21 days (until January 27).
A full list of measures can be found here, but the Toronto Arts Council has put together an excellent summary of the major points for the arts and culture sector:
- Concert venues, theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks, waterparks, tour and guide services including boat tours, fairs, rural exhibitions and festivals must operate under the following conditions:
- indoor areas of concert venues, theatres and cinemas are closed. However, rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted performance, artistic event or performance is permitted, with restrictions.
- outdoor events may remain open with restrictions (such as masking).
- spectators at seated outdoor events limited to 50 per cent capacity.
- drive-in and drive through events permitted with restrictions, such as distancing between cars, only permitted to leave a vehicle in limited circumstances, etc.
- Indoor meeting and event spaces are closed with limited exceptions but outdoor spaces are permitted to remain open with restrictions.
- Outdoor events have no limits on number of attendees, but face coverings and/or masks must be worn when distancing (two metres or more) cannot be maintained.
- Businesses and organizations are required to ensure employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.
- Businesses that provide in-person teaching or instruction (such as music classes) must operate under the following conditions:
- indoor areas are closed, except for organizations that provide health and safety training (with conditions).
- outdoor areas may remain open with restrictions in place, such as physical distancing.
- Social gathering limits are reduced to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
Expanded Government Support
As the Omicron variant continues to spread across Ontario and across the country, the Government of Canada announced a temporary expansion of some of its COVID-19 programs for areas affected by lockdowns (which currently includes Ontario), for both organizations and individuals.
For organizations, the Local Lockdown Program is being expanded to include employers subject to capacity-limiting restrictions of 50 per cent or more; and reduce the current-month revenue decline threshold requirement to 25 per cent. Eligible employers will receive wage and rent subsidies from 25 per cent up to a maximum of 75 per cent, depending on their degree of revenue loss. The 12-month revenue decline test continues to not be required in order to access this support. Find out more.
For individuals, the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit is being expanded to include workers in regions where provincial or territorial governments have introduced capacity-limiting restrictions of 50 per cent or more. As announced previously, this benefit will provide $300 a week in income support to eligible workers who are directly affected by a COVID-19-related public health lockdown, and who have lost 50 per cent or more of their income as a result. Find out more.
These updated regulations will apply from December 19, 2021, to February 12, 2022.
Other programs for organizations that are worth exploring include:
- Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP) is a wage subsidy for employers to encourage bringing back employees who were laid off or had hours reduced due to the pandemic.
- Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program (THRP) includes both wage and rent subsidies for organizations in the tourism, hospitality, arts, entertainment, or recreation sectors.
- Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program (HHBRP) provides wage and rent subsidies for some organizations who don’t qualify under the other benefit programs.
- Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program offers low-interest loans of $25,000 to $1 million to cover operational cash flow needs for businesses heavily impacted by COVID-19.
- Indigenous Business Support offers financial support to First Nation, Inuit, and Métis community or collectively-owned businesses and micro-businesses affected by COVID-19 that do not qualify for other relief programs.
We also encourage individuals who are being affected by pandemic lockdowns to explore the various programs of Support for Individuals offered by the federal government, including the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB).
Meanwhile, the Government of Ontario has announced a new Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program, which will provide rebates to eligible organizations for a portion of property tax and energy costs they incur while under pandemic restrictions. We are still awaiting details on this program and who will be eligible, but watch for that some time this month.
KEEP INFORMED, STAY IN TOUCH
As always, keep checking the EC3 Facebook page, @ECThreePtbo on Twitter, @ec3ptbo on Instagram, and the COVID-19 Updates page on EC3’s website, where we are providing daily updates on programs and services available for ACH workers and organizations.
Be safe, stay healthy, and please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Su Ditta and the EC3 Board and staff