Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

First At-Home Prescription Medication for COVID-19 Approved for Use

Health Canada approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, making it the first oral and at-home prescription medication. It can be given to those aged 18 and older to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 if they are at a high risk of becoming seriously ill. Canada pre-ordered 1 million courses of the treatment.

Bank of Canada Survey: High Inflation Expected to Last

The Bank of Canada said its pair of quarterly surveys of businesses and consumers show respondents expect the annual rate of inflation to remain above the central bank’s 2% target for the rest of the year.

Two-thirds of the firms that took part in the business outlook survey anticipate inflation to stay above 3% over the next two years, while respondents in the survey of consumer expectations expected inflation to remain above 4% for the next two years, and 3.5% five years out.

Manufacturing Sales Rose 2.6% in November

Factory sales climbed 2.6% in November from the previous month to a seasonally-adjusted $63.07 billion, according to Statistics Canada. This is higher than market expectations of a 1.6% increase.

Data also showed 18 of the 21 sectors tracked reported increases in sales, with shipments from primary metals producers climbing 5.8% to a record $5.81 billion. Meanwhile, sales also surged by 3.7% in the petroleum and coal sector, hitting a record level.

Trucker Vaccine Rule Makes Freight and Fruit Pricier

Rules requiring truckers to show proof of vaccination when crossing the Canada-US border are increasing the cost of transporting produce out of California and Arizona to Canada by 25%.

Under the rules implemented from 15 January, unvaccinated US truckers will be turned away and Canadian truckers who can’t show proof of vaccination will be required to quarantine when they re-enter the country.

Meanwhile, the US is set to impose its own vaccine mandate on foreign travelers on 22 January.

$35 Million Funding for Refugee Settlement Services

The federal government has announced $35 million in new funding over the next three years to improve and expand immigration settlement services in small towns and rural communities. $21 million of this will be used to establish nine new resettlement assistance program service providers in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, and New Brunswick to ease pressure on the 32 providers currently operating across the country.

New Mental Health Support Companion App Launched

The government has launched PocketWell, a companion app to the Wellness Together Canada (WTC) online platform, to support mental health and combat substance abuse. The app can help users track their mental health status over time and provides quick access to free counselling services.

Grant for Small Businesses in Ontario

Ontario is rolling out a new $10,000 grant for small businesses forced to close due to the pandemic. Eligible businesses include gyms, museums and galleries, tour services and before- and after-school programs.

Businesses that qualified for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and that have been forced to close will be pre-screened for the new grant, and need not apply.

COVID-Business Aid Loan Repayment Extended to 2023

The federal government is extending the deadline for small businesses to pay back their Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans to the end of 2023.

Originally, if claimants repaid the balance of their loan on or before the end of 2022, the government planned to forgive up to one-third of their loan. Now, eligible businesses “in good standing,” will have until 31 December 2023 to repay and be eligible for up to $20,000 of debt forgiveness.

Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit Open for Applications

The federal government announced that the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit is open for applications. It gives temporary income support of $300 a week to employed and self-employed people who can’t work due to a COVID-19 lockdown.

The Canada Revenue Agency said British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut are designated as lockdown regions.

Payments will be retroactive to 19 December.

COVID-19 Recovery Programs

The government is taking immediate action to support Canadians and businesses facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You will find support for individuals, businesses, sectors, communities, and other measures here.

Ontario Extends Paid Sick Leave Program Into 2022

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton is extending the pandemic paid sick leave to 31 July. Originally, the provincial program was supposed to wrap up on 31 December. However, with the more contagious Omicron variant, the Labour Minister announced that it would continue.

HASCAP Loan Applications

Loan applications from the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) is available until 31 March 2022.

Loans start at between $25,000 and $1 million for a single business depending on the size of the operation, and run up to $6.25 million for companies with multiple locations like a chain of hotels or restaurants. Interest rates are set at 4% across the board, terms will be up to 10 years, with up to a 12-month postponement of principal payments at the start of the loan.

To be eligible, companies will have to show a year-over-year revenue drop of at least 50% over three months, not necessarily consecutive, in the eight months before the application.

Further details can be found here.

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