Workers Compensation Board to give $37M surplus back to employers

By | April 21, 2020

The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba is returning a roughly $37-million surplus to eligible employers, Manitoba’s premier says.

The WCB will return 20 per cent of last year’s premium to employers starting in May, Brian Pallister announced Tuesday.

The plan will give about $29 million back to private-sector employers and roughly $7 million to small businesses, the provincial government said.

This is the second year the WCB has returned a surplus to employers.

“We’ve been working very, very hard across all government and with our partners to find ways to help support all of you, but also to support our small business population in the province,” Pallister said.

The WCB insures more than 34,000 employers in the province, or roughly three-quarters of Manitoba’s workforce, the province said in a news release.

Pallister said the surplus return is “coincidental” to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he hopes it will provide economic relief to employers when they need it.

“Good decision, well-timed,” he said.

On Tuesday, officials announced one new case of COVID-19 in the province, bringing Manitoba’s total to 255 confirmed and probable cases.

Six Manitobans with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began.

Officials said Tuesday 150 Manitobans have recovered from the virus, for a total of 99 active cases.

Give health workers presumptive coverage: union

A union that represents Manitoba health-care workers said Tuesday it agrees with the principal of supporting businesses and regional health authorities, but it wants to see more support from the compensation board for front-line workers, too.

The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals and other unions have previously called for presumptive coverage for health-care workers who get COVID-19. 

Currently, health-care workers who test positive for the disease are responsible for proving to the WCB that they contracted it at work before they can get support, said MAHCP president Bob Moroz.

Under presumptive coverage, a worker is automatically covered by compensation, without having to prove their condition was caused at work.

“We’re not looking at changing the benefits, we’re not looking to get any more than what you would normally get,” said Moroz.

“What we’re looking to do is remove the onus on that individual to prove that they contracted this virus through their work.”

Presumptive coverage would ease some of the stress hanging over workers about what could happen if they get sick, he said, and give peace of mind to professionals serving on the front line of the COVID-19 response. It’s already offered to health-care workers for other conditions like PTSD, Moroz added.

The union has sent a letter to the province and received nothing but a “curt” response back, he said. 

Commercial rent assistance

Pallister said Tuesday that the province will participate in a forthcoming federal program to help commercial tenants cover rent during the pandemic.

Manitoba will contribute $16 million to the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program, Pallister said, although details are scarce about how the program will work once implemented.

Ottawa announced its plan to roll out the program last week. The program is intended to help small businesses by offering loans, including forgivable loans, to commercial property owners, who will then lower or forgo rent from small businesses.

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The funding would kick in retroactively for April and extend until June, the federal announcement said.

Pallister praised the program Tuesday, and said he believes Manitoba is the first province to officially sign on.

“The same people, after all, who pay federal taxes pay provincial ones, and we want to make sure we serve that one pocket where the money comes out of with effective programs,” he said.

More information on the program is expected to come as early as Tuesday afternoon, Pallister said.

WATCH | Premier Pallister on COVID-19 measures in the province  | April 21, 2020:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister on the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic : April 21 41:11

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