Weekly COVID-19 Economic Update – April 15, 2020

Prepared by Morris Interactive

Every week during the coronavirus crisis, CCDF will be providing its clients with an economic update to help them understand the wider economic implications and better plan their own recovery.

This week, we focus on what a phased reopening might look like, and which business supports you should be applying for.

COVID cases are down in Saskatchewan. So when can we re-open? It was a good week on the public health front for Saskatchewan. The number of active cases peaked on April 5; since then, more people have recovered than new cases confirmed each day, and those new cases are in the single digits. A single outbreak could disrupt this trend, however there is reason for optimism that we are close to the tail end of the pandemic curve.

Premier Scott Moe announced that a Reopen Saskatchewan plan may be announced as soon as next week, outlining a gradual, phased approach, if current trends continue. What strategies can we expect?

Mass Testing

Critical to the success of South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong’s pandemic suppression approach has been aggressive testing, contact tracing and early isolation. This helps ensure that the spread of coronavirus does not proliferate undetected, and provides confidence in the safety of higher risk locations such as airports, large construction sites, remote communities, and clinics. The provincial government has ordered 46,000 Spartan Cubes – portable testing kits the size of a coffee cup, which can provide results in less than an hour and do not require the specialized expertise and equipment of a large lab.

Selective Reopening

Services and areas of reopening will likely be selected based on public health risk and impact to the economy. The first category of services to have been reopened in similar countries include daycares, schools, personal services and parks. Children are at low risk of contracting COVID-19, and getting them back to their normal routines allows their parents to become more productive. Permitting personal services such as haircuts and chiropractors to resume is considered lower risk because interactions are limited to one-on-one contact. Finally, parks generally allow people to maintain healthy lifestyles while physical distancing, and golf courses are already opening in BC.

Restaurants may soon follow, but likely at reduced capacity, and with table service only, as could some non-essential retail outlets. Additional cleaning, spacing and personal protection requirements will likely be imposed.

Areas that will probably be phased in later include services for large numbers of people in close proximity, such as movie theatres, indoor recreation centres, and public libraries. Festivals, concerts, large conferences and similar events will likely be deferred for months. Gathering limits will likely be set and then expanded as public health considerations allow, for example from 10 to 50 to 100 persons.

The federal government has already imposed border restrictions until June 30. Re-opening borders to non-essential travellers will likely be done very cautiously, and with additional screening and testing requirements.

Amongst the highest risk areas are long term care facilities. Restrictions on visitors and activities could last in these locations until a vaccine is available.

Masks

Guidance has changed in the past few weeks to recommend the public use of non-medical masks. Those using public transportation, accessing crowded public spaces, or providing services where physical distancing is difficult may be encouraged or required to mask up to prevent asymptomatic transmission.

Tracking

Google and Apple are collaborating to develop an app that will alert users as to whether they have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, for example if they ate at a restaurant at the same time as someone who soon after tested positive for COVID. This could help efforts to trace and reduce community transmission. However tracking technologies depend on the majority of people using the app alongside regular widespread testing. It also raises privacy concerns.

Another option is to track confirmed COVID cases or those in an imposed quarantine (e.g. travellers or those who live with a COVID-19 patient) to ensure they do not leave their homes during their isolation period.

Longer Term Solutions

Our scientific and medical knowledge of COVID-19 is evolving rapidly. It is possible that in 2-4 months we will have better treatments, testing, and understanding of the disease that will allow greater easing of public health restrictions and help prevent strong second and third waves of the pandemic.

Ultimately, most believe that the only long term solution to COVID-19 is vaccination. Although there are unprecedented efforts to develop vaccines happening around the world, including in Saskatchewan, it is estimated it could take 12-18 months from development through clinical testing to manufacturing and distribution. Vaccination phases will then likely prioritize high risk groups such as the elderly and health care professionals.

What are the main business support programs I should be applying for? Many small and medium businesses are reeling from the pandemic and will require government supports to stay open. But even for those whose balance sheets are looking okay, it probably makes sense to take advantage of some of the supports being offered, if you are eligible.

The federal government has two main small business support programs at this point. The biggest is the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which subsidises 75% of wages for up to 12 weeks, from March 15 to June 6, for businesses that have seen a significant drop in revenues. It also provides a refund of employer-paid contributions to EI and CPP. The goal of this program is to prevent layoffs and allow a quick return to business once public health restrictions are removed. Applications for the Subsidy can be made by eligible employers through Canada Revenue Agency’s My Business Account portal. It is expected to begin paying out in the next 2-4 weeks.

The second main program is the Canada Emergency Business Account. It provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits that paid between $50,000 to $1 million in total payroll in 2019. If this loan is paid in full by December 2022, 25% (up to $10,000) will be forgiven. As such, every qualifying business should consider applying. Payout turnarounds are quick and have already been occurring at some financial institutions. Small businesses can apply at their regular bank or credit union.

The Government of Saskatchewan has also announced a small business support program, one of the first provinces to do so. The Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment provides a grant of up to 15% of a business’s monthly sales revenue (based on either April 2019 or February 2020) up to $5000. The criteria is a bit more strict: eligible small businesses must have had to temporarily close or curtail operations due to public health orders.

In addition to these programs there are also a number of payment deferrals, loan programs and other supports available to small and medium businesses.

As governments identify pain points for small and medium business needing assistance, it is likely they will adjust programming to address challenges that are shared by many but are currently left unsupported. So if none of these programs apply to you, stay optimistic: more help may be on the way.

How can my business adjust to the new economic reality in Saskatchewan? CCDF is offering all of its clients up to $10,000 for professional assistance, through its Business Support Program, to navigate these difficult times, and has retained a number of consultants to help you with your specific needs. Areas of support include addressing HR issues, acquiring economic intelligence and financial management advice, and more. Call your CCDF Business Development Specialist to access this program right away, and better understand what supports and strategies will work best for your circumstances.

What are some good resources to learn more? Morris Interactive has compiled a list of free resources that will provide up to date economic information during the coronavirus crisis. You can view those resources here.


Document Prepared by Morris Interactive
www.morrisinteractive.ca • info@morrisinteractive.ca • Ph. 1.866.955.3006

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