Province offers more support as economic turmoil roils Nova Scotia

by Charles Mandel

Another day, another set of aggressive packages from the provincial government designed to help keep the economy churning through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This time Department of Business Minister, Geoff MacLellan queued up with $161 million to address cash flow and access to credit for Nova Scotia's small and medium-sized enterprises. "Effective immediately we will defer payment and interest for government loans, including those under the Jobs Fund, the Municipal Finance Corporation, and Housing Nova Scotia."

He said government would also defer business related fees until June 30 and that a list of those fees would be posted online in coming days.

He made the announcement during a March 20 press conference that the provincial government held.

As well, the province will also defer Worker's Compensation premiums, "keeping $16 million in the hands of Nova Scotia businesses as well."

Loan payments under the Nova Scotia Small Business Loan Guarantee Program administered through the N.S. credit unions will also be deferred until June 30. That program is being enhanced, making it easier for small businesses to access credit up to $500,000," MacLellan said.

MacLellan also announced $15 million to "incent" internet provides to speed up internet connectivity projects, especially in the rural areas, as more and more people begin to work from home.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said that next week the province would also announce "an aggressive package of capital projects." He also called on the federal government to talk to the banks to defer corporate loans to help landlords, restaurants, small business and others to stay afloat. "It will require a national program to make that happen."

Strang hinted at a shortage of the N95 face masks, saying that the use of them were only necessary for particular procedures. He did say that they had reached out to the construction industry for any masks they may not be using.

In answer to a journalist's question, Strang said there has only been speculation as to when medical supplies might run out, and he noted the province is working with a federal/provincial procurement program.

MacNeil called upon the fishing, farming and construction industries to keep moving ahead in order to keep the "economy moving." The premier said the province is working to ensure they have guidelines to be able to operate safely.

Strang said the province has done extensive testing, with almost 1,550 negative test results coming back as of March 20.

Also, on March 20, the province announced a 15th case of COVID-19.

The latest case is presumptive and brings the totals across the province to five confirmed cases and 10 presumptive cases of COVID-19.

The new case is travel-related and was identified on March 19.

The 15 individuals affected range in age from mid-20s to mid-70s.

Public health has been in contact with these individuals and are working to identify others who may have come in close contact with them. Those individuals are also being directed to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.

McNeil told the news conference that it's "critical that we continue to think about our families and friends...we can't become complacent. This [the virus] is coming to our province. at a greater rate."

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