COVID-19 and Alberta housing co-ops
Published March 27, 2020
Updated May 20, 2020
Below is some province-specific information for Alberta. CHF Canada co-op staff are here to help you with your questions about co-op operations that are impacted by COVID-19. Please call (204) 947-5411 or 1-888-591.3301 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or need help sorting through an issue.
State of Emergency
Alberta declared a State of Emergency on March 17th. Public events of over 15 people are prohibited. As well, meetings of fewer than 15 people should be cancelled if they are likely to include a demographic with higher vulnerability (i.e. members over 60 years old, people of any age with underlying medical conditions). Alberta has announced a fine of up to $1,000 for violation of the meeting size restriction.
Alberta has announced its relaunch strategy for businesses in the province. Housing co-ops may elect to re-open offices to the public during Phase 1, targeted for May 19th. They may also elect to defer opening their offices to a later date, and provide services remotely. Whenever a co-op chooses to re-open its office, it should refer to these guidelines for the workplace.
Meetings of more than 15 people continue to be prohibited.
As of May 1st, the prohibition on evictions has been ended.
For Alberta co-ops our advice remains that you should not have members meetings at this time. Alberta’s declaration of a state of emergency prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people. Even if your meeting will be less than 50 people, it will be difficult to maintain the proper social distancing between people.
The Director of Cooperatives has relaxed legislative requirements for co-ops to hold special member meetings on request, and several related items. Co-ops are expected to document any steps they take which are non-compliant with their by-laws during the State of Emergency. For more detail on these, contact your local federation or CHF Canada staff.
The regulations to the Co-operatives Act states the co-op must hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM), within either 15 months of the last AGM or 6 months from end of fiscal year, whichever is earlier. However, the regulations also allow the co-op to apply to the Court for permission to defer the meeting to another time. (see Co-op Regulations S.19).
If your AGM is due to occur in the next two months, CHF Canada recommends that your co-op write a letter to the Registrar stating your intent to delay the AGM due to the State of Emergency, and seeking direction on whether an application to the Court will be necessary, or whether the Registrar can waive this requirement.
The members can receive the audited financial statements and appoint the auditor at a later date when you are able to hold your AGM safely. If you generally elect you directors at your AGM, your current board will remain in office until their successors are elected at the AGM when you are able to hold it.
What about budget meetings?
The same advice holds. Don’t hold a budget meeting at this time.
If the co-op cannot hold its general members meeting to approve the budget, the co-op can submit the budget or subsidy estimate with a memo to the regulator. The memo can state that the members have not approved the budget at the time of submission due to the COVID 19 pandemic measures. Of course the board of directors must approve the budget before it is submitted to the regulator. You may want to consider holding an electronic board meeting to approve the budget. (see Board meetings) You should also check with your regulator.
Even though board meetings will be smaller than members meetings, during the pandemic you should consider not holding in-person board meetings. For Alberta housing co-ops, directors can hold electronic board meetings through such means as telephone conferencing or computer video chat. This is the preferred way to conduct necessary board business during this time. (see section 75(1) of the Act).
In scheduling an electronic meeting, CHF Canada recommends dealing with high priority agenda items and limiting meetings to no more than one hour in length. (Zoom videoconferencing platform is free for meetings of 40 minutes or less). During the pandemic, it would be a good idea for the board to schedule short weekly or bi-weekly electronic meetings to discuss urgent issues.
- Alberta Corporate Registry has suspended all deadlines for cooperatives regarding AGM’s and filing of Annual Returns. No co-ops will be dissolved for failure to file during this period.
- Alberta has announced $30 million in funding for non-profits to assist with supports in response to COVID. (Housing charge relief is not eligible, but delivery to vulnerable people, volunteer expenses, and other items are).
- Alberta has instituted an Emergency Isolation Support Payment of $1146 for persons who must self-isolate due to COVID-19 and cannot attend work.
- Alberta has announced utility payments can be deferred for up to 90 days.
- Alberta has frozen the Education Property Tax at 2019 levels, effectively rolling back the 3.4% increase included in the recent budget.
- Alberta has deferred Workers Compensation Board premiums for 2020 to be deferred to 2021. Small and medium size businesses are eligible for a 50% reduction of premiums in addition to the deferral.
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