VICTORIA -- The B.C. government is imposing a temporary limit on food delivery service fees to reportedly help restaurants survive the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting Dec. 27, food delivery companies must cap fees charged to restaurants at 15 per cent, under a new B.C. emergency program act (EPA).

Meanwhile, a five per cent cap is also in place for other fees related to delivery services, like processing or online ordering fees, to “ensure that companies cannot shift their delivery costs to other fees,” says the province.

The B.C. government says the emergency program act will also protect wages for delivery service workers by prohibiting companies from keeping driver gratuities or from reducing their compensation.

The province adds that small, locally owned delivery service businesses will also be exempt from the new EPA.

“Local restaurants and businesses play a vital role in our communities, and they have experienced a significant decline in sales and traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in a release Tuesday.

“Capping food service delivery fees is another way our government is providing immediate relief to our local businesses to ensure they can focus on retaining staff and keeping their business running.”

The delivery service cap was set after consultation with stakeholders, says the B.C. government. The EPA order will remain in effect until three months after the province’s state of emergency has lifted.

B.C.’s state of emergency was renewed for the 20th time on Dec. 8 and may be extended every two weeks.

According to the province, employment in food and drinking services was down 25 per cent in September 2020 compared to the same time last year.