The province has rolled out details of a program for workers who have seen their hours cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The short-term program will provide employers with a subsidy of $250/week for each employee who has had hours reduced in recent weeks. After deductions are made for payroll taxes, the remaining amount will be transferred to employees.
Matthew MacKay, minister of economic growth and tourism, said employers will be responsible for applying for the program on behalf of their staff. He said having the employers apply is the most efficient way to get money into the hands of workers who have seen a dramatic drop in their incomes. Individuals who continue to work would have no or reduced eligibility for federal Employment Insurance benefits.
"We have a lot of employers that have access to all the information of the employee. We've got companies that have laid 15 to 20 people off," MacKay said.
MacKay said he expects payments to start being sent to employers by week’s end.
MacKay also announced a plan to provide $100 Sobeys gift cards to laid-off workers. The province partnered with Sobeys Inc. on a bulk purchase of the cards. Employers will be able to apply to receive the cards to distribute to laid-off staff. MacKay said Sobeys paid 25 per cent of the cost of the cards.
Funds are currently being disbursed to businesses and self-employed individuals through two other programs administered through Innovation P.E.I. and the Department of Finance as part of a $25-million emergency relief fund established by the province.
The measures are part of short-term income relief programs announced by the P.E.I. government in recent days as a stop-gap before more substantial worker relief programs are approved by the federal government.
During Tuesday’s media briefing, Premier Dennis King also provided an update on talks with other premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. During a call Monday evening, Trudeau told the premiers the federal benefits will begin to reach Canadians on April 6, King said.
King also said workers who are nearing the end of their seasonal Employment Insurance benefits will see these benefits extended. It remains unclear if seasonal work will be available.
"Under this new program that the federal government is rolling out, there will be a continuation of benefits for those, as well as an opportunity for those that might not have qualified under the previous EI situation,” King said.
King also said he has been assured other federal benefits that Islanders may draw on will not be clawed back.
In the same briefing, Steven Myers, minister of transportation, infrastructure and energy, announced plans for a limited re-opening of the Oak Tree outlet of the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission. Myers said the store would be opened with reduced hours starting Wednesday. The hours will be limited from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, with the hours of 10-11 a.m. reserved for seniors.
"There is well established public health and addictions research and evidence to support maintaining this alcohol access for those at risk of withdrawal," Myers said, noting the PEILCC outlet will maintain a high standard of cleanliness and will enforce social distancing. Numbers of patrons inside will be limited.
Myers said provincial staff may close the outlet if Islanders do not abide by social distancing within the store. Other stores may be re-opened in the coming days.
“People have an option to try to make this work by following what they’ve been told to do in public,” Myers said.