A recent spike in COVID-19 cases thanks to the highly contagious Omicron variant has forced Ontario to introduce a new slate of public health restrictions. These new restrictions mandate the closure of a number of businesses (fitness centres and gyms, indoor dining, concert venues and indoor meeting spaces) and other businesses operating at half capacity (retail spaces and malls). Once again, small business owners are scrambling to stay afloat this winter.
Though many of the original benefits and supports established in the early months of the pandemic are no longer running, there is still help. Here’s a list of supports all three levels of government are offering to help small businesses and entrepreneurs weather the winter months.
Support from government
City of Toronto Property Tax Reduction
In November 2021, the City of Toronto announced a 15 percent decrease in property taxes for small businesses that will come in effect for the 2022 tax year. This tax reduction will apply to approximately 25,000 small businesses across the city.
Federal recovery programs
Though some of the federal government’s COVID initiatives are no longer running, there are still some programs that have extended their availability. For each claim period, eligible employers can claim just one benefit. These benefits include:
- The Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program (effective October 24, 2021 to May 7, 2022)
- Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program (effective October 24, 2021 to May 7, 2022)
- Canada Recovery Hiring Program (effective June 6, 2021 to May 7, 2022)
Ontario’s COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit
This benefit supports employees who are isolating while they wait for the results of a COVID-19 test, sick or are experiencing a side effect of getting vaccinated, but eligible employers are also entitled to be reimbursed the amount of emergency leave pay, up to $200 per employee per day taken up to a maximum of three days. This benefit has been extended to July 2022.
Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant
This new grant of $10,000 is available to businesses that are closed due to the new public health measures and have fewer than 100 employees. Businesses that previously qualified for the grant will be pre-screened and won’t need to apply for this new program. Eligible small businesses include: meeting or event spaces, restaurants and bars, and performing arts spaces and cinemas. Applications will be available in the coming weeks.
Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program
Recently announced by the Ontario government, this new program is meant to support businesses most impacted by the public health measures made in response to the Omicron variant. This measure will provide businesses with reimbursement for costs such as property tax and energy costs. Applications for this rebate program open January 18, 2022.
Resources for navigating supports
Digital Main Street
Toronto’s Digital Main Street program offers tools and resources to digital vendors. On top of the program’s Digital Service Squad, which provides one-on-one virtual assistance on everything from social media to launching an ecommerce store, Digital Main Street also compiles tools to help entrepreneurs improve their online presence during the pandemic. These tools include articles on how to optimize menus for takeout, how to create an invoice and how to manage small business inventory.
Digital Main Street also offers a program to help small businesses and artists start their ecommerce site through DMS shopHERE powered by Google. Any registered business in Ontario with fewer than 10 full time employees (25 if a restaurant) is eligible.
BusinessTO Support Centre
This city-run resource pairs businesses with an advisor who provides one-on-one consultations on completing applications for federal government assistance and guidance on city programs. The advisor can also give general business advice.
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