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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Daily Update: March 3rd, 2021

Niagara Region Public Health prepares for rollout of large-scale vaccination later this month

With vaccination supply increasing later this month and the AstraZeneca vaccine now approved as a third vaccine in Canada, Public Health has plans ready to deliver vaccine on a large scale to protect the Niagara community as soon as vaccines have arrived.

Some parts of Ontario received initial COVID-19 vaccine shipments in December, a month earlier than Niagara. Some of these regions have begun limited vaccination of persons 80 years of age or older, while Niagara finishes vaccination of our highest risk population. As the provincial portal launches on March 15, and as vaccine becomes more plentiful later in March, Niagara is poised to deliver mass vaccination at the same time as the rest of the province.

Once the provincial portal is open and mass vaccination clinic information becomes available, Niagara Region Public Health will notify eligible groups through broad communications (via community partners, media, advertising, social media, etc.) as well as the COVID-19 vaccination webpage.

The provincial government has announced that a centralized vaccination registration portal will launch on March 15. This portal will be used by local public health agencies across the province and mass vaccination clinics will begin soon after this portal is launched, including in Niagara. At present, there is no waiting list and the general public cannot register for a vaccine appointment. Those currently eligible for the vaccine are being contacted directly by either Niagara Region Public Health or Niagara Health.

Niagara will have vaccination clinics in all parts of the region.

After vaccinating those 80 years of age and older, Niagara Region Public Health will follow the provincial prioritization criteria to move through progressively younger age brackets until all persons 60 years of age or older have had the opportunity to get vaccinated. At that point, essential workers throughout the region as well as other high-risk residents (e.g. those with chronic medical conditions) will be able to get vaccinated. The Ontario government hopes to open vaccination up to all Ontario residents by the start of fall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that the September goal for mass vaccination could be moved up if deliveries continue and if promising new vaccine candidates are approved. U.S. President Joe Biden has claimed that the United States will have enough vaccines to offer doses to the entire population by the end of May.


GNCC asks Niagara to remain vigilant and prevent another lockdown

Today’s release of Niagara pandemic metrics for the week of February 21-27 has revealed that our numbers are beginning to move in the wrong direction again. The change is not great, but nevertheless, the incidence rate, percentage of positive tests, and reproductive number – metrics which the Government of Ontario uses to determine the stage of reopening under the provincial framework – have all gone up.

For a huge number of businesses and people in Niagara, 2020 was a terrible year. Many of our local firms have been kept afloat only through government subsidy. Many others have had to close. People have lost their livelihoods. The economic damage to the careers and earnings of our young people will likely last years or decades. And this is not to mention those who have gotten sick, who have died, or who have lost loved ones to this pandemic.

It is imperative that we avoid another lockdown and control the pandemic. So far, Niagarans – like all Canadians – have done well. We have followed public health guidelines and kept each other safe, and thus managed to avoid the disaster which has befallen countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and many European states which have seen per-capita death rates many times our own.

We know that, after almost a year of restrictions, your frustration and exhaustion is mounting. But with mass vaccinations imminent, the end is in sight. The GNCC asks that everyone remain strong, follow public health guidelines, avoid unnecessary risks, and stay safe. We can get through this by working together and supporting each other.


Wage and rent subsidy amounts to remain unchanged through to June

Today, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, announced that the government intends to extend the current rate structures for these subsidies from March 14 to June 5, 2021.

  • The maximum base wage subsidy rate for active employees would remain at 40 per cent, and the maximum top-up wage subsidy rate for employers most adversely impacted by the pandemic would remain at 35 per cent. As such, the maximum combined wage subsidy rate would remain at 75 per cent.
  • The maximum rent subsidy rate would remain at 65 per cent.
  • Lockdown Support would remain at 25 per cent and continue to be provided in addition to the rent subsidy, providing eligible hard hit businesses with rent support of up to 90 per cent.

A separate wage subsidy rate structure applies for furloughed employees. To ensure that the wage subsidy for furloughed employees remains aligned with benefits available under Employment Insurance (EI), and that workers are provided with equitable treatment between the two programs, the weekly wage subsidy for a furloughed employee, from March 14 to June 5, 2021, would remain the same and continue to be the lesser of:

  • the amount of eligible remuneration paid in respect of the week; and
  • the greater of:
    • $500; and
    • 55 per cent of pre-crisis remuneration for the employee, up to a maximum subsidy amount of $595.

Since the wage subsidy and rent subsidy programs launched, an organization’s decline in revenues has generally been determined by comparing the change in the organization’s revenues in a current calendar month with its revenues in the same calendar month of the previous year. An organization may also elect to use an alternative approach, which compares the change in the organization’s monthly revenues relative to the average of its January 2020 and February 2020 revenues.

The GNCC has previously requested that the maximum rate remain at 75%, and is pleased at this announcement. However, we have also noted that the current eligibility scheme excludes many new and seasonal businesses, and have repeatedly asked that new criteria be drawn up that would cover businesses in these categories which have been unduly affected by the pandemic. The Canadian Chamber has also been advocating for these programs to keep 2019 as the reference period from which businesses can determine the level of decline in their revenue, rather than the year-over-year calculations currently used.


Ontario Chamber: upcoming budget should focus on hardest hit

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released its 2021 Ontario pre-Budget submission (PDF link), focused on recovery, growth, and modernization. The submission calls for policies that minimize the impacts of business closures, uplift the sectors and demographics hit hardest by the pandemic, invest in the infrastructure and workforce of the future, and modernize government services to improve outcomes for businesses and residents.

The recommendations outlined in the submission were developed together with businesses, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce, and boards of trade. The submission focuses on mitigating the immediate impacts of the crisis, while laying the groundwork for a robust and sustainable economic recovery.

 


Reading recommendations

More signals of a Roaring ’20s rebound for Canadian economy when pandemic ends

Don Pittis, CBC News

Gloomy headlines about the collapse of the Canadian economy, which faced its worst retreat since records began, may have obscured some startling new evidence for a strong rebound.

As we reported on Tuesday, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic put Canada’s economy into a tailspin, making 2020 the worst year on record, with gross domestic product declining by 5.4 per cent.

But other data out this week, including some buried amidst those latest bleak GDP numbers, tells a different story. It shows that high levels of savings and government income support have bolstered the economic well-being of households — notably among the youngest groups and those with lower incomes.

At the same time, one fresh measure of consumer confidence shows Canadians more willing to go out and spend than at any time since 2018.


Freeland warns of scarring, vows to keep spending

Kait Bolongaro, Bloomberg News

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stressed the government will do “whatever it takes” to support Canada’s recovery and suggested it’s too early to declare victory despite data that show surprising strength in the economy.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 9.6 per cent annualized rate in the fourth quarter, according to a preliminary estimate released Tuesday by Statistics Canada. A flash estimate from the agency said the economy probably grew 0.5 per cent in January.

Freeland said at a news conference she’s committed to spending through the COVID-19 crisis. “Our government will continue to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to help Canadians through this bleak time, to prevent economic scarring and to invest in a way that allows us all to come roaring back after COVID-19,” she told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has presided over some of the developed world’s largest deficits to help the economy during the pandemic. Canada’s deficit swelled to $248.2 billion in the nine months ended Dec. 31, compared to $11 billion in same period a year earlier.

The borrowing has been driven by programs that send money to people and businesses that lost jobs and income because of the virus, which has killed 22,000 people in Canada. But some say the government went too far — spending $20 in transfers to households last year for every dollar of regular income that was lost.


Niagara COVID status tracker

Niagara’s most up-to-date COVID statistics, measured against the targets for the various stages of the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, are presented below. This does not predict government policy, but is offered to give you an idea of where Niagara is situated and how likely a relaxation (or further restrictions) may be. These data are drawn daily from Niagara Region. The Grey-Lockdown level does not have its own metrics, but is triggered when the COVID-specific measurements in a Red-Control region have continued to deteriorate.

 December 18December 25January 1January 8January 15January 22January 29
Reproductive number1.41.81.41.11.00.70.9
New cases per 100,000101.2267.3469.8575.8507.1295.5250.6
New cases per day (not including outbreaks)60.7178.7311.7376.9325.4182.7145.7
Percent of hospital beds occupied97%95.2%98.2%103.2%104.5%103.6%106%
Percent of intensive care beds occupied78.8%77.3%87.9%87.9%90.9%89.4%93.9%
Percentage of positive tests6.1%15.6%28.1%28.6%26.6%21.2%16.2%

Definitions:

  • Weekly Incidence Rate: the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week
  • Percent Positivity: the number of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed
  • Rt: the reproductive rate, or the number of people infected by each case of the virus

Information on government grants, resources, and programs, policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here.The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.
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