As a registered charity, legal corporation, and employer it is important that congregational leadership remains current with all of the legal issues facing the church at this unprecedented time. These leaders are likely your church council or whomever serves as the legal “directors” for your legal corporation.
The same holds true for classes, which are registered legal charities in Canada.
While it is difficult for your leadership group to meet physically during COVID19, we encourage you to continue meeting online so that you can carry out appropriate steps to fulfill your fiduciary responsibilities in the best interest of the church.
To assist in this task, there are a plethora of resources being offered by government, legal and financial professionals, and charity support organizations. One such resource is the site http://charitylaw.ca/.
In a recent webinar addressing COVID-19 issues facing charities, lawyer Terrance Carter lists the following key due diligence considerations:
- Keep records of decisions
- Convene meetings as necessary
- Develop a communications strategy (members, staff, beneficiaries, suppliers)
- Keep up to date with government actions
- Review risk management policies
- Review contractual obligations
- Address financial matters
- Address employee issues
- Ensure workplace health and safety
- Consider privacy implications
The Canadian Council of Christian Charities, https://www.cccc.org/ is also a key resource for churches.
The Government of Canada and the various provincial governments have created COVID-19 sites which are in a constant state of being updated as new pronouncements are being made and should be consulted routinely. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
Information on financial and economic support for both employers and individuals is readily accessible.
Here are a few CRCNA programs available to churches:
World Renew and Diaconal Ministries Canada Grants: World Renew and DMC have partnered together to offer small grants ($5,000 maximum) to diaconates of local churches. To qualify, deacons must submit an application form that outlines how they plan to partner with other ministries in their community to respond to a COVID19 need.
Diaconal Ministries Canada Resources: DMC is offering webinars and other resources to assist congregations in determining how to respond in their communities, deal with mental health challenges and more.
Christian Reformed Church in North America: a variety of resources related to worship, children’s ministry, youth ministry, pastor care, and more have been curated at crcna.org/covid19. These resources are updated regularly.
Here are a few Government Programs that are currently available for Employers:
- Employer Health Tax (Ontario): https://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/bulletins/eht/eht-exemption-2020.html.
- Retroactive to January 1, 2020 the Ontario Employer Health Tax exemption for 2020 has been increased from $490,000 to $1 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- For more information on the EHT exemption visit: https://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/guides/eht/foremployers.html
- 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy: https://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/bulletins/eht/eht-exemption-2020.html
- The 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deduction required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
- Eligibility criteria can be found by reading the link provided and professional accounting advice is recommended.
- The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration the Employer pays from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer.
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy - 75% Wage Subsidy: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/wage-subsidy.html.
- The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provides a 75% wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020.
- Legislation to enact the CEWS was passed April 10, 2020. Payments to employers are expected within two to four weeks.
- CEWS legislation seeks to prevent further job losses and encourage employers to re-hire workers previously laid off as a result of COVID-19, and better position Canadian employers to more easily resume normal operations following the crisis.
- Eligibility criteria can be found by reading the link provided and professional accounting advice is recommended. If your church does not qualify for the CEWS your church may still qualify for the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy.
In addition to the above programs, there are also Canadian and Provincial Government Programs available for Employees:
CERB - Canada Emergency Response Benefit: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/apply-for-cerb-with-cra.html
Link to a helpful site with questions and answers regarding the CERB: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application/questions.html
- This benefit is for employees that have stopped working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The eligibility criteria is listed on the sites provided.
- This benefit provides a payment of $2000 for a 4-week period for up to 16 weeks.
- This is a taxable benefit but taxes are not deducted at source. Therefore, the employee will receive $2000 in a 4-week period. The employee will report the income from the CERB, and will be required to pay applicable tax on the income, when they complete their 2020 personal income tax return.
Additional Employer Considerations:
- Stay informed with the recommendations and guidance provided by the World Health Organization, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, etc.
- Implement social distancing measures, including encouraging employees to work remotely, making use of telephones or videoconferencing, and if that is not possible, avoid close contact if physically present at the workplace.
- Follow Government of Canada travel directives; all business or personal travel of employees should be discouraged.
- Require all employees to disclose any COVID-19 associated symptoms and send them home to self-isolate for 14 days. The same applies if an employee discloses that they or a family member has been in contact with someone who was exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19.