What Private Sector Employers Need to Know About the Alberta Critical Worker Benefit

by Robert Finnigan, CPA, CA

On February 10, Premier Jason Kenney announced the Critical Worker Benefit (“CWB”) and on February 17 additional program details were released and the application portal for the private sector opened. The CWB provides for a one-time $1,200 payment to eligible Albertans in the health care, social services, education, and certain private sectors who deliver critical services to Albertans or support food and medical supply chains. Details of the CWB can be found at the following link.

The CWB is distributed to employees through their employers. The Government of Alberta is working directly with public sector employers to distribute the benefits. Private sector employers must apply for the CWB on behalf of their eligible employees using the application portal that will remain open until Friday March 19, 2021. The portal can be accessed at the following link.

Applications will be assessed on a first completed, first applied basis and exhaustion of the program funding may result in an employer’s application not being approved.

Eligibility Criteria for Private Sector Employees

To be eligible, an employee must be working for an eligible employer and performing an eligible occupation. Eligible employers are for profit private sector entities including corporations, sole proprietors and partnerships that are located and operating in Alberta and operating in one of the eligible sectors. The Alberta Government has provided a listing of the private sectors that are eligible for the CWB and there are numerous eligible occupations within the sector that qualify. These categories are:

  • Food and beverage stores, excluding liquor and cannabis
  • Health and personal care stores, excluding cosmetics, beauty, and fragrance
  • Gas stations
  • Food manufacturing
  • Truck transportation of food and medical supplies
  • Couriers and messengers, excluding post offices, bicycle messengers and take out delivery
  • Warehousing and storage of food and medical supplies
  • Offices of physicians, dentists, and other health practitioners.

In addition to working in these industries for an eligible employer, to be eligible for the CWB, the private sector worker must have:

  • Worked in Alberta and be legally authorized to work in Canada,
  • Earned a regular gross wage of $25 per hour or less, and
  • Worked at least 300 hours, including overtime and paid leave, from October 12, 2020 to January 31, 2021 for the eligible employer that is applying for the CWB.

Workers that are independent contractors are not eligible to receive CWB.

There is no limit to the number of eligible employees an employer can apply for under the CWB. However, business owners, self-employed persons, and sole proprietors cannot receive the CWB for themselves. 

The payment of the CWB to the employees is taxable, is subject to income tax, CPP and EI deductions when paid and will be included on the annual T4 issued from the employer. In recognition that the employer may experience administrative and related costs, the employer will receive additional funding of 7.66% of the total approved funds. This amount is equal to the employer CPP and EI contributions that the employer would be liable for.

Application Process for Private Sector Employers

Applications must be submitted through the on-line application portal.  To access the online application, employers must have a MyAlberta Digital ID for Business (MADI-B).  If the employer does not have a MADI-B, they must create one prior to accessing the CWB portal.

The online application requires a declaration with respect to the accuracy of the information provided, banking information of the employer and a Grant Agreement. In respect of each employee who may be eligible, the employer must provide their full name, date of birth, Social Insurance Number, occupation title, wage during the eligibility period, start date and two or more pay stubs from the eligibility period. Other information may need to be provided during the application process. If approved, employers will be notified through the online application portal. 

Employers will be responsible for resolving any worker issues, such as eligible hours worked to count towards program eligibility. The CWB program does not provide dispute resolution services, including in relation to eligibility disputes, an employer’s failure to apply on behalf of a particular worker, or the employer’s administration of the Grant. The Government of Alberta does accept complaints, and may audit employers, to ensure that the Grant is provided in accordance with the Grant Agreement and the CWB program guidelines.

The names of employers receiving funding will be published on the Government of Alberta website. 

There are specific guidelines for private sector employers operating in First Nations communities and these guidelines differ by eligible sector. The details of these guidelines can be found within the CWB website.

Your KMSS advisor is available to assist you in determining if your business is in an eligible sector and if your employees are eligible for the CWB. We can also assist with determining whether any other Federal or Provincial support measures may be available.

For further information regarding COVID-19 Assistance for Alberta Small Businesses and Alberta Residents, please refer to our summaries on our tax tools page.

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