When the federal government announced the institution of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canon Jody Beck and recent Order of Niagara recipient Greg Cook stepped up to the challenge of collecting, collating, and reporting data. Together, they worked tirelessly to navigate the changing regulations and interpret them for the diocese’s unique employment context which includes its parishes and Canterbury Hills.
Since its inception, CEWS has received and approved over 4 million applications to help eligible employers continue to pay their employees through the lockdowns, shifts in labour needs, and economic uncertainty arising from the pandemic.
Greg’s involvement, especially, is the result of a winding journey back to the church. “My wife and I were married in an Anglican church in Hamilton in 1971. After the wedding,” Greg retells, “we seldom attended church. After my wife’s death [in December 2019], I felt that going back to church may help me get through life without my partner. So, I joined the Church of the Apostles in Guelph.”
Greg is a retired CPA/CMA accountant, and soon found himself assisting where needed at Church of the Apostles. When the CEWS program was announced, Greg “felt that having lots of work to do would be good” for him. He contacted Canon Jody and offered to help by sharing his financial skills with the diocese.
“We chatted about his background, his ability to play with numbers and create Excel spreadsheets, and his understanding of church finances from his work at the Church of the Apostles, and how much time he might have,” Jody recalls about Greg’s offer to serve. “About the same time the government announced the CEWS program to assist businesses and not-for-profits with reduced income, to try to keep staff employed and paid—and bingo, did I have a job for Greg!”
Canon Jody Beck explains that while she could gather and arrange payroll data to fit CEWS requirements, she needed help with the revenue data. Greg notes that “Jody made up templates and informed all of the parish treasurers and bookkeepers that I would be collecting and consolidating their data.” The process started in March of 2020 and it is currently expected to continue until at least October of this year.
“We would not have been able to receive the CEWS assistance without his help,” observes Jody. As of the summer, more than $4.3 million has been received by the diocese and distributed to its parishes from the subsidy program.
Coupled with the generosity of parishioners, Jody and Greg’s efforts in applying for CEWS on behalf of the whole diocese helped to lessen the pandemic’s financial impact on the vitally important ministries of the diocese’s parishes. It also lifted a huge administrative burden from parish leaders, who could instead focus on adapting local ministries to the new reality.
Reflecting on the impact of Greg’s work, Jody notes that “his Excel data not only provided the information we needed for CEWS rebates but it also helped the Bishop, Archdeacon Bill Mous, and other archdeacons understand the details of what was happening to parish revenues as a result of the pandemic.” She adds that that despite having never met in person, she feels like she has known Greg for a long time. “Greg has been my friend, colleague, and calm voice at the end of the phone and more for 18 months.
Likewise, Greg has expressed great appreciation for Jody’s teamwork. “It has been a lot of work but Jody has been a great boss,” he states. “She has a wonderful sense of humour, and between us we have managed to package the data into a form that she can use to make the government applications.”
CEWS has been a significant financial support to the whole diocese throughout the pandemic, and both Jody and Greg expressed their thanks for the dedicated effort of parish treasurers and bookkeepers who have made possible the diocese’s monthly application—and more importantly—helped ensure financial resources for ministry continued to be available amidst a very challenging and uncertain time.