Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Monday afternoon the province will be rolling back its planned hike to the education requisition property tax that was outlined in Budget 2020.
“Things have changed drastically and Albertans should not have to worry about a higher property tax level,” Kenney said.
The premier said reversing the 3.4-per-cent increase should save around $55 million for households and $32 million for businesses, for a total of $87 million a year.
The government will defer its portion of six months worth of the education property tax on nonresidential properties. These deferred amounts will be delayed until October.
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“This means that employers will be responsible for 50 per cent of the education property tax that they would have owed for this year. The deferred amounts will need to be repaid in subsequent years and payment plans are being developed. We will keep our options open if some form of additional targeted relief is necessary,” Kenney said.
The province also announced a Workers Compensation premium deferral for private sector businesses and support for small and medium businesses. Private sector employees will be able to defer WCB premiums until early early 2021 and employers who have already paid their premiums for 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit. For small and medium businesses, the government will cover 50 per cent of the premium when it is due and large employers will get a break through having their payments deferred for year.
Paying for 50 per cent of small and medium private sector WCB premiums for 2020 will cost the government around $350 million.
Snowbirds, stay home immediately
Kenney was firm in demanding snowbirds who are arriving home from overseas stay home once they arrive.
The premier said travellers arriving home must immediately isolate upon return to Alberta.
“This does not mean going to the grocery store, it does not mean going to the kennel to pick up the dog, it does not mean dropping your RV off at a service company to be serviced, it does not mean going and visiting the grandkids. It means one thing and one thing only: when you come into the country ... you must go directly and immediately to your home without stopping.
Kenney said call friends, family, neighbours or a delivery service for assistance getting groceries and supplies.
“We will not tolerate people coming in from overseas and then mixing with the general population. They would be threatening public health in Alberta. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.”
The premier said he has heard too many stories of people not abiding by the 14-day quarantine rule.
“It is an absolute public health imperative and we are prepared to if necessary to use stronger legal tools to impose that obligation on people and stronger penalties if they violate that direction of our public health officer,” Kenney said.
The premier is considering quarantine orders for people returning and is considering increasing penalties for those who would break them.
'Special place in hell': Kenney addresses scammers
Kenney said the province has been made aware of a number of scams and fraudulent operations targeting vulnerable people. One scam involves fraudulently calling people and claiming to be from Alberta Health Services, then telling them they have tested positive for COVID-19. The caller then requests the person's health care number, ID and credit card numbers.
The premier said other scams, malware and fraudulent activities are being set up online and Kenney warned Albertans to be careful when clicking on links or providing personal information.
“Beware of suspicious emails or web links and always think twice before you click,” Kenney said.
“There must be a special place in hell for people like that. Just stop it.”
Kenney said if they catch anybody participating in any of the frauds or scams, the book will be thrown at them and they will face the full force of the law.
Kenney says the hoarding behaviour some Albertans have exhibited is hurting the province's most vulnerable people.“There is no need for people to engage in hoarding,” Kenney said.
He said in the last two weeks, Hope Mission has been delivering 80 per cent more meals than in the past but they are struggling to get supplies because of aggressive hoarding taking place at grocery stores.
“This is outrageous. The poorest amongst us are being hurt by those who are unnecessarily hoarding,” Kenney said.
Kenney is asking landlords who benefit from mortgage payment deferrals from the banks or other forms of relief to pass those savings on to their tenants.
The premier said right now many of the eviction orders that will be enforced are from months ago, before COVID-19 broke out, and would be for renters who have not paid for months, or who have been involved in criminal activity, vandalism or who are operating grow-ops.
"Landlords need to be able to protect the value of their property from bad tenants, but at the same time, we call upon landlords to do the right thing and wherever possible extend rent relief during this difficult time to their tenants,"
Kenney said the province is considering a short-term stay on eviction orders.
"It makes no economic sense to evict tenants for missing April rent given the effective shutdown of our economy, because who else is going to fill those units?"
Kenney said the notion of barring landlords from collecting rent over the next few months could collapse the total stock of housing that is available to people.
"We have to be very careful about how we deal with this."
Read the full press release below:
Additional financial support for Albertans and employers
More relief is on the way for Albertans and Alberta employers.
The government has made three significant decisions that will give Albertans and Alberta employers additional supports as they deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our priority is to keep our province strong while we get through these difficult times together. We’re doing everything we can to support Albertans and Alberta employers through this crisis. That’s why we’re focused on creating tangible savings for households and freeing up necessary cash for businesses to help them through these unprecedented times.”Jason Kenney, Premier
Education property tax freeze
During a pandemic, Alberta households should not need to worry about paying additional property taxes.
- The government will immediately cancel the decision made in Budget 2020 and will freeze education property taxes at last year’s level.
- Reversing the 3.4 per cent population and inflation adjustment will save Alberta households and businesses about $87 million in 2020-21, which means $55 million for households and $32 million for employers.
- The government expects that Albertans and Alberta businesses will fully realize these savings and that municipal property tax levels will not be increased as a result of the lower provincial education property tax levels.
Education property tax deferral for business
When Alberta businesses are operating, they employ Albertans who can support themselves, their families and help keep the economy running. Effective immediately, the government will defer education property tax for businesses for six months.
- In the next six months, $458 million in cash will remain with employers to help them pay employees and continue operations.
- The government expects municipalities to set education property tax rates as they normally would, but defer collection. Deferred amounts will be repaid in future tax years.
- The government encourages commercial landlords to pass on these savings to their tenants through reduced or deferred payments. This will help employers continue to manage their debts, pay their employees and stay in business.
- Businesses capable of paying their taxes in full are strongly encouraged to do so. This will assist the province in being able to support Albertans through this pandemic.
“Eliminating the scheduled adjustment of education property taxes and deferring collection of non-residential property taxes will result in savings to Albertans and improved business cash flow. This measure will help Alberta households and businesses during this time – we want to keep Albertans working while we get through these difficult times together.”Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance
WCB premiums deferral for private sector businesses and support for small and medium businesses
Private sector employers can save money on their WCB premium payments at a time when they need it most. These actions ensure the sustainability of the workers’ compensation system and that injured workers continue to receive the benefits and supports they need to return to work.
- Private sector employers will have immediate financial relief by deferring WCB premiums until early 2021, effectively for one year.
- Employers who have already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit.
- For small and medium businesses, the government will cover 50 per cent of the premium when it is due.
- Large employers will also receive a break by having their 2020 WCB premium payments deferred until 2021, at which time their premiums will be due.
- Paying 50 per cent of small and medium private sector WCB premiums for 2020 will cost government approximately $350 million.
Additional measures to help families, students and employers
Previously announced measure taken by the province to protect Albertans and assist businesses include:
- The collection of corporate income tax balances and instalment payments is deferred until Aug. 31, 2020. This gives Alberta businesses access to about $1.5 billion in funds to help them cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
- $50 million to support emergency isolation for working adult Albertans who must self-isolate, including persons who are the sole caregiver for a dependent who must self-isolate, and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while they are self-isolated. It is distributed in one payment instalment to bridge the gap until the federal emergency payments begin in April.
- Utility payment deferral for residential, farm, and small commercial customers to defer bill payments for the next 90 days and ensure no one is cut off from electricity and natural gas services during this time of crisis.
- A six-month, interest-free moratorium on Alberta student loan payments for all individuals who are in the process of repaying these loans.