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Kenney announces more action to help small, mid-sized businesses 'stay afloat'
EDMONTON -- Alberta will be deferring the education property tax for businesses and paying half of WCB premiums for small and medium-sized employers this year.
The steps are meant to help Albertans and their companies “stay afloat” while the pandemic and free-falling energy prices wreak economic havoc.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says about $55 million will be saved in households and $32 million saved by businesses by the government’s decision to freeze the education property tax at 2019 levels.
Budget 2020 outlined a 3.4 per cent increase.
An additional $458 million will be freed up by the government deferring the tax for businesses for six months and allowing it to be paid in future years.
Kenney said Monday he and Finance Minister Travis Toews had been speaking to the mayors of Edmonton and Calgary as well as the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.
“We understand they’ll be looking for ways they can help as well with property tax assistance, but that will be up to them within their financial conditions.”
Alberta will also be allowing companies to defer their Workers Compensation Board premiums until early 2021, and paying half of WCB premiums for small and medium-sized businesses.
This will not affect the benefits being paid to injured workers, Kenney promised.
KENNEY URGES LANDLORDS TO ‘DO THE RIGHT THING’
Alberta will not be taking any stronger action than continuing to encourage landlords to pass savings they see through mortgage deferrals onto renters – and considering potentially implementing a short-term stay on evictions.
“The notion of barring landlords form collecting rent for the next two or three months could lead to a total collapse of the stock of housing that’s available to people,” Kenney commented.
“We have to be very careful with how we deal with this.”
He said many of the eviction orders currently in the system predate COVID-19, and represent renters who have repeatedly not paid rent or participated in illegal activity.
Urging landlords to “do the right thing wherever possible,” Kenney added: “It makes to economic sense to evict tenants for missing April rent given the effective shut down of our economy…
“Who else is going to fill those units?”
FEDERAL ACTION NEEDED FOR OIL, AVIATION INDUSTRIES
But the help needed by the energy and aviation sectors may be beyond what Alberta can offer, the premier said Monday.
Kenney was scheduled to speak to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that evening.
He said he’d be calling for “extraordinary action” in line with trillion-dollar stimulus packages by the U.S. and U.K. governments, and help for businesses trying to access $10 billion in additional credit announced earlier in March.
“Clearly, bigger steps may be necessary that are beyond the fiscal power of the government of Alberta.”