As the economy gradually reopens six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are still struggling: the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Small Business Recovery Dashboard shows that only 61 percent of Ontario small businesses are fully open and just 26 percent are experiencing normal sales.
And the challenges just keep coming. Recent spikes in COVID-19 cases have forced Ontario to pause its reopening plans. The dramatic scaling back of this month’s Toronto International Film Festival to mostly online screenings has many businesses reeling. (The festival typically draws hundreds of thousands of visitors and generates more than $200 million in annual economic activity.) And if that wasn’t enough, winter is coming — patio closures and reduced foot traffic will make things even more difficult for businesses.
There is help, however. Here’s a list of supports all three levels of government are offering to help small businesses and entrepreneurs weather the turbulent months ahead.
Financial relief and funding options:
Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)
CEBA provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced. This support has been extended until October 31.
Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA)
CECRA offers rent relief for small businesses experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, and has recently been extended for September. The deadline to submit a new application and dates to opt-in for the September extension will be announced soon.
Loan Guarantees and Co-Lending Programs for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Through the Business Credit Availability Program, Export Development Canada (EDC) works with your financial institution to guarantee 80 percent of new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition, Business Development Canada (BDC) co-lends term loans of up to $12.5 million to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements. These supports are available until June 2021.
Support for Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs
The federal government is granting $306.8 million in short-term interest-free loans and non-repayable contributions to help small and medium-sized Indigenous businesses. Up to $40,000 will be available for each business.
Support for the self-employed
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is transitioning into a simplified Employment Insurance (EI) program on September 27. To provide additional income support for those unable to work due to COVID-19, the federal government plans on introducing three new more targeted recovery benefits:
All three benefits will be effective from September 27 for one year. More details will be announced in the near future.
Programs to help cover payroll costs:
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
Eligible businesses can receive a subsidy to cover part of their employee wages, retroactive from March 15, 2020. Applications for claim period six (August 2 to August 29) are now open.
The program provides EI benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce their normal working hours and share available work while their employer recovers. The maximum duration of the Work-Sharing program has been extended from 38 weeks to 76 weeks.
Extended tax deadlines and penalty relief for businesses:
The CRA has extended the payment due date for 2019 individual tax returns and 2019 or 2020 corporation, or trust returns, as well as for instalment payments, from September 1, 2020, to September 30, 2020. Penalties and interest will not be charged if payments are made by the extended deadline of September 30, 2020.
Businesses will also get an extended interest and penalty relief period (from August 31, 2020, to October 1, 2020) to file and make payments for the majority of provincially administered taxes.
Resources for navigating and applying for supports:
BusinessTO Support Centre
The City of Toronto’s BusinessTO Support Centre pairs businesses with an advisor, who provides one-on-one consultation on completing applications for federal government assistance as well as guidance on City programs and general business advice.
Digital Main Street
The city’s Digital Main Street program offers tools, resources and connections to digital vendors. The program’s Digital Service Squad provides one-on-one virtual assistance on everything from websites and social media, to launching e-commerce platforms, such as ShopHERE, powered by Google.
Additional resources and supports:
- The Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan for businesses: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html#businesses
- Ontario COVID-19 support for businesses: https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-support-businesses
- City of Toronto COVID-19 business and sector resources: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-economic-support-recovery-for-businesses/covid-19-business-sector-resources/
- Retail Council of Canada’s Road to Retail Recovery Playbook: https://www.retailcouncil.org/coronavirus-info-for-retailers/recovery-playbook/
- The Canadian Federation of Independent Business COVID-19 Small Business Help Centre: https://www.cfib-fcei.ca/en/small-business-resources-dealing-covid-19
- The Ontario Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness Toolkit for Ontario Businesses: https://occ.ca/covid-19-pandemic-preparedness-toolkit-for-ontario-business/