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COVID-19 UPDATE

This is a long message but please read in full.

These are strange and troubling times for us all and we understand the level of uncertainty in your businesses and in your daily lives must be putting a strain on you and your staff. We’d like you to know that you are not alone. Commissary Connect was created to provide the level of support and understanding that was needed in the industry when we operated our food cart (Soho Road) 6 years ago. Although the level of uncertainty now is unprecedented, our core business of helping entrepreneurs get started and stay in business has not changed.

We had a management meeting this morning to discuss the current environment. Below you will find information on Food Safety and Financial assistance packages presented by the Government. As well as how Commissary Connect can help. Each link will send you to the respective source of that information.

Food Safety – Nancy Ross, Commissary Connect Food Safety Lead

The BCCDC (BC Centre for Disease Control) has provided information regarding food safety on their website:

http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/about-covid-19/food-safety.  It is useful information for the risks associated with food for both consumers and food processors.

BCCDCs key message is that COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be transmitted by eating food contaminated with the virus, however, it is important to practice good hand hygiene before preparing or eating food.  Commissary Connect would like to ensure that members monitor employee hygiene practices at this time.  Please review the following practices with employees.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after eating, smoking, sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose, touching your face or hair and using the washroom.  Although people think it is okay to wash your hands in the washroom and then return to work, this is not permissible.  You must wash your hands when you re-enter the facility.
  • Wear a clean apron.  Do not go outside wearing the apron.
  • Remove your apron when going to the washroom
  • Avoid wiping your hands on your apron or clothing while you are working.
  • If you are sick – stay home!  Never handle food when you are sick.
  • Do not eat food in the processing area.
  • Effective immediately No Cellphones in the processing area.
  • Be vigilant about disinfecting your own station (especially your stainless steel tables)
  • Restrict access of any outside people coming into any of the facilities.

The BC CDC also explains that COVID-19 is a virus and does not grow. It may survive in foods and on surfaces for a few hours to a few days before it dies off.  Members must be vigilant to good manufacturing practices to ensure we minimize the risk of cross contamination.  Commissary Connect personnel have increased the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing communal surfaces such as door handles, key pads and faucets.  All sanitizer dispensing units at sinks have been tested and are at the correct concentration of 200 ppm quaternary ammonium sanitizer.  We ask your help in this.  Always have a spray bottle of sanitizing solution handy and use it. 

Identify risky practices in your station and retrain employees.  Cross contamination from the floor to work surfaces must be prevented.  Nothing should be directly on the floor in your station or assigned area in the cooler or freezer.   This cross-contamination risk is the one I observe most often in the facility.  If you have the habit of transferring things from the floor to the table without thinking about it now is the time to break it. 

Keep extra clean utensils handy.  If you drop something on the floor replace it with a clean utensil until you have time to properly clean and sanitize them.  A quick rinse under the tap is not enough. 

The BCCDC website also provides information about wearing a mask at work.  Masks provide a protective barrier to reduce the risk of spreading viruses through droplets made by people when they cough or sneeze. Masks are not needed for people who are not experiencing any symptoms such as cough, sneeze, fever or shortness of breath. Another reason masks are not recommended is that they may cause you to touch your face more often.

Basic Health Guidelines –  Ronica Mund, Critical Care RN Providence Healthcare

Along with Food Safety, just some information on Health directly from what we are being told from VCH:

  • Wash your hands!
  • In terms of Food businesses, VCH does not recommend shut down at this time for any establishments that do not have social seating. This means you need to encourage your clients and followers to arrange orders for curbside pickup or delivery
    • Commissary Connect is going to make the Pop-up Space available as a staging area for curbside pick-ups from the Industrial Ave locations. This way public will not be entering any production facility.
  • If you or your staff are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with a cold or flu, STAY HOME. Here is a self assessment tool if you feel it may be Coronavirus: https://covid19.thrive.health/
  • As of now, health experts agree that the transmission from person to person is through droplets i.e. coughs or sneezes. Avoid face to face contact and maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters
  • For up to date health information, Please visit: www.vch.ca/about-us/news/vancouver-coastal-health-statement-on-coronavirus

Financial Assistance

We are leaning on as many resources as we can to understand what is meant in terms of financial assistance. The below information has been provided to us from the BC Food and Beverage Processors Association / the Federal Government and the Small-Scale Food Processors Association / BDC. Their respective links are below.

 

Temporary Wage Subsidy

  • The government will provide eligible small employers a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. The subsidy will be equal to 10 percent of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
  • Businesses will be able to benefit immediately from this support by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld on their employees’ remuneration.
  • Eligible small employers include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.

Employment Insurance (EI)

i)  EI Sickness Benefits

  • The federal government is going to waive the mandatory one-week waiting period for employees to receive EI, effective March 15, 2020. In addition, the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits has been waived (an ROE still needs to be issued).
  • An Emergency Care Benefit has been announced, providing up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. This benefit applies to:
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits;
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits; and
  • Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.
  • Application for the Emergency Care Benefit will be available in April 2020 and can be accessed by phone or online.

ii) EI Worker Benefits

  • The government is introducing an Emergency Support Benefit for Canadians who lose their jobs or face reduced hours and are not eligible for EI.; and
  • As previously announced, the EI Work Sharing Program will be implemented to provide EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours. Eligibility will be extended to 76 weeks and the application process will be streamlined.

Goods and Services Tax

  • The government is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC). This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year. The average amount received by those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.

Ensuring Businesses Have Credit

  • The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) will allow the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide additional support, largely targeted to small and medium-sized businesses. This will be an effective tool for helping viable Canadian businesses remain resilient during these very uncertain times. BDC and EDC are cooperating with private sector lenders to coordinate on credit solutions for individual businesses. The near-term credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector will also be increased through Farm Credit Canada.

For more information on the above programs please visit: https://www.bcfpa.ca/news/types/251

Or the https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html

WEBINAR to help explain some of the above:


The BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) is hosting a webinar on March 25th, 2020.  Please go to the following link to read the message from the President and CEO of the BDC.
https://www.bdc.ca/en/about/mediaroom/public_statements/pages/we-are-here-for-you-your-business.aspx

Sign up for this free webinar by clicking on the link below.
https://www.bdc.ca/en/articles-tools/entrepreneur-toolkit/webinars/pages/how-cope-impacts-covid-19-on-your-business.aspx .. <<<Commissary Connect has signed up>>>

So that was a lot of information! We are getting thrown updates daily and will continue to sort through what we feel is most relevant to you and will keep you apprised of what is going on at each facility. We ask that you keep your lines of communication with us open so that we are aware of your challenges and can help in whichever way we are able. Please understand that we are private enterprise just like you and are doing our best to stay in business so that everyone has a place to work once this time has passed. We are in this together. Please know that. If you are able please support one another via social media, order from one another, share information, remind each other of best practices and correct each other if need be.

Sarb Mund – CEO & Founder, Commissary Connect