Province offers gift cards, support hotline to Islanders affected by COVID-19 crisis
Reopening Oak Tree liquor store on limited hours
The P.E.I. government has announced a partnership with Sobeys to provide gift cards for Islanders facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.
Economic Growth Minister Matthew MacKay said Tuesday in a 5 p.m. media briefing that the temporary program will provide $100 gift cards to employees who have been laid off amid the crisis and are waiting for employment insurance. Islanders can use the gift cards at Sobeys, Lawtons Drugs, Foodland and participating Co-Ops.
"We've bought $300,000 of gift cards, we're getting $400,000 worth of gift cards," he said.
Sobeys will contribute 25 per cent the cost of the gift cards to help those who have been laid off as they wait for employment insurance and federal payments to begin.
Employers will fill out the application form and distribute the gift cards to employees.
To be eligible for the gift card program, employers must have issued a lay-off notice to one or more employees as a result of the pandemic between March 13 and March 31. Employees affected must have a salary of $25 /hr or less and have had their hours reduced by at least eight hours per week.
Islanders need help now, Islanders need to put food on the table now, Islanders need to take care of their families now.— Matthew MacKay
MacKay reminded Islanders that employers are also responsible for filling out applications for the Emergency Relief Worker Assistance Program so employees whose hours have been significantly reduced as a result of COVID-19 can be identified.
To be eligible for the emergency relief program, employers must have have employees who have experienced a reduction of at least eight hours per week during the two-week period of March 16 and March 29.
MacKay said while the Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I. has closed its doors to the public, it continues to support employers and workers by phone and email.
He said new employer payroll audits have been deferred and benefit payments for eligible workers will continue to be processed., and that WCB will be supporting opportunities for telehealth and rehabilitation for injured workers and local service providers.
WCB said it will defer all assessment due dates related to 2020 employer payrolls, which means that covered employers will not have to pay WCB premiums until June 30, and neither interest nor penalties will accrue during that time.
In a written news release, the organization asked employers to submit any revisions to their 2020 payroll estimates before May 15 to ensure changes are reflected in their June statement.
Connecting Islanders to assistance
MacKay said a direct link to a COVID-19 business programs website has been launched in an effort to connect Islanders to all programs that have been developed.
He also announced all Islanders who need assistance during the crisis, including child care and essential supplies such as groceries, can call a new hotline: 1-833 533-9333.
We are opening the store with enhanced cleaning and enhanced health and safety precautions.— Steven Myers, minister of transportation, infastructure and energy
So far, he said the province's emergency relief program to help self-employed Islanders has received more than 1,000 applications and distributed more than $180,000 as of Tuesday.
"Islanders need help now, Islanders need to put food on the table now, Islanders need to take care of their families now," MacKay said.
P.E.I. Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Steven Myers announced that the province will be providing new options for Islanders to access to liquor, highlighting the importance of maintaining access to liquor for Islanders vulnerable to the dangers of alcohol withdrawal.
Liquor store to reopen
Myers announced the reopening of the Oak Tree liquor store in Charlottetown Wednesday, with limited hours of operation. The store will be open Monday through Saturday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Seniors and people with compromised immune systems will be given priority from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m.
Myers said the province will begin with the Oak Tree location as a pilot to see if people maintain appropriate social distancing.
"We are opening the store with enhanced cleaning and enhanced health and safety precautions in place to protect the public and our staff," he said.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.
How can I protect myself?
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Sally Pitt and Sara Fraser