Last updated on November 11, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the economy and the day-to-day lives of Canadians, governments of all levels and their agencies have announced programs and taken other actions in response. In addition to measures such as emergency measures, tax relief and financial support for individuals unable to work as a result of the pandemic, governments at the federal and provincial levels have announced various types of support for businesses.
In what follows, we summarize some relevant support to businesses that the federal and provincial governments have established. This list is not exhaustive. You should directly consult the government or agency that is responsible for the initiative for specific information. Alternatively, you can contact us for assistance and we would be happy to help.
For information regarding additional measures taken by government, please see the following additional resources:
- State of Emergency and Business Closures: For information on closure of non-essential businesses, see our post here.
- Employment: For information regarding issues facing employers as a result of COVID-19, please see our COVID-19 Quick-Reference Considerations for Employers.
- Tax: For issues and relief related to
taxation, please see our posts regarding:
- Deferral of GST/HST and QST remittances and customs duty payments | Last updated: August 7, 2020
- Important Canadian tax updates - Filings and disputes | Last updated: August 7, 2020
- Tax Court of Canada closure | Last updated: August 17, 2020
- Canadian Tax Update - Collections, audits, objections and appeals | Last updated: June 1, 2020
- Tax compliance and relief update for Alberta and B.C. businesses | Last updated: Apr 8, 2020
- Important provincial tax updates - Filing and Disputes | Last updated: Mar 24, 2020
- COVID-19 Business Wage Loss Subsidies | Last updated: Apr 2, 2020
- Important Québec tax updates - Filings and disputes | Last updated: June 5, 2020
- Real Estate: For information on both commercial and residential real estate relief (including rent relief), please see our post on COVID-19: Key developments and considerations for real estate stakeholders | Last updated: May 19, 2020
For further information, please see our page regarding navigating the legal and business impacts of coronavirus.
Highlighted Government Support Initiatives
Federal and provincial governments have pledged various financial supports to businesses to ease the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlighted forms of relief announced to date include the following:
Financial relief announced for businesses by the federal government includes the following:
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program provides relief to eligible employers. Whereas previously the program covered 75% of an employee's wages up to $847 per week, the program was recently amended effective July 5th to a base subsidy and top-up, which provides for two levels of relief for those employers whose businesses have suffered the most during the pandemic and can demonstrate a 50% reduction in qualifying revenues, up to a maximum of $1,129. On October 14, 2020, the government announced that it intends to extend the wage subsidy until June 2021, to continue the current base subsidy rate until December 19, 2020, and to harmonize the revenue decline test for the base and top up subsidy rates. As of October 25, 2020, the wage subsidy for furloughed employees is aligned with the benefits provided through Employment Insurance. Subsidies can be calculated using the federal government's online calculator. For more information on the CEWS please see our post titled Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy - A Detailed Review.
- Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers: The federal government provided a 10% wage subsidy for eligible employers for a three-month period (March 18 - June 19, 2020). The subsidy allowed eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions for remittal purposes.
- Work-sharing Program Extension: Effective March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021, the Work Sharing Program allows a group of core staff employees with similar job duties to agree to reduce their hours of work by 10-60%. The federal government has extended the maximum duration of the work-sharing program maximum duration from 38 to 76 weeks. Among other criteria, eligible businesses must be in operation for one year.
- Waiving Tariffs on Certain Medical Goods: The federal government is waiving tariffs on certain medical goods, such as Personal Protective Equipment.
- Canada Emergency Business Account Loans: The Canada Emergency Business Account loan program provides eligible small businesses with interest-free loans of up to $40,000. On October 9, the government announced the extension and expansion of the program. In addition to the $40,000 loan initially available, businesses that continue to be impacted by the pandemic and can demonstrate need are now eligible for an additional $20,000 interest-free loan. Whereas previously a business banking account was required, as of October 26, 2020, eligible Canadian businesses that currently operate through a personal bank account will be able to apply for CEBA. 25% (up to a maximum of $10,000) of the original loan is forgivable if the balance is repaid by December 31, 2022, as well as half of the additional financing. The deadline to apply for CEBA is December 31, 2020.
- EDC Business Availability Credit Program: Export Development Canada is collaborating with financial institutions to provide guarantees of 80% of new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to eligible small and medium-sized businesses. It is not necessary to export goods in order to qualify for the program. Businesses can apply for loans under this program through participating banks and credit unions.
- Co-Lending Program for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: The federal government is collaborating with financial institutions by providing co-lending term loans of between $1 million and $12.5 million to eligible small and medium-sized businesses to remedy operational cashflow issues. Principal payments on the loan may be extended for as many as twelve months. Businesses can apply for loans under this program through participating banks and credit unions until June 2021.
- Regional Relief and Recovery Fund: The federal government is offering the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to assist eligible businesses in sectors that play a key role in regional and local economies, such as manufacturing, technology, and tourism. This program is intended to assist eligible businesses that need additional help to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but have not been able to access other support measures. The program is delivered through the local Regional Development Agency. On October 2, the federal government announced that it will provide an additional $600 million to support workers and businesses through RRRF.
- Mid-Market Financing Program: The Mid-Market Financing Program provides eligible businesses with $100 million to $500 million in revenue with commercial loans ranging from $12.5 million to $60 million. This program provides loans to eligible medium-sized businesses that have credit needs that exceed what is available through the Business Credit Availability Program and other measures. The program will be available until or before June 2021.
- Mid-Market Guarantee and Financing Program: The Mid-Market Guarantee and Financing Program will provide liquidity to eligible companies that tend to have revenues of between $50 million to $300 million. This program is available to international exporters as well as international investors and businesses that sell their products or services within Canada. Through this program, the government will continue to collaborate with Canadian financial institutions to guarantee 75% of new operating credit and cash-flow loans that range from $16.75 million to $80 million. More details on this program will be forthcoming from the government.
- Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility: The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility ("LEEFF") provides bridge financing to eligible large businesses with at least $300 million in revenue who require loans of at least $60 million to preserve their employment, operations and investment activities until they can access more traditional market financing. Companies seeking support must commit to minimizing the loss of employment and sustaining their domestic business activities. LEEFF support cannot be used to resolve insolvencies or restructure firms. LEEFF loans have an introductory interest rate of five per cent, rising to eight per cent the following year. Among other things, the loan terms require prohibitions on dividends, capital distributions, share repurchases, and certain executive compensation.
- Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance: The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance ("CECRA") program provides financial assistance to eligible small businesses that are experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19. Participation in the program requires eligible property owners to reduce their rent by at least 75% for the months of April, May, and June for small business tenants. The government will cover 50% of the rent, the property owner will forgive at least 25% in rent, and the tenant will pay up to 25% of the rent. The application must be submitted by the property owner. CECRA was extended for the months of July, August and September. Participants should note that they have until October 30, 2020 to apply for support in respect of the month of September (the final month of the program). Thereafter, the government plans to introduce the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy ("CERS") program as a replacement to CECRA. CERS applies directly to tenants, rather than requiring tenants to engage in rent reduction negotiations with landlords. CERS supports businesses, charities and non-profits that have suffered revenue drops by subsidizing a percentage of their rent or commercial mortgage expenses on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible expenses, until June 2021 (though the current iteration of CERS is scheduled to continue only until December 19, 2020). A "top-up" emergency rent subsidy of 25 per cent will also be available to organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order.
- Small Business Hotline: The federal government launched a hotline service called the Business Resilience Service to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners in need of financial planning advice. The hotline was established on May 25, 2020 and ran for four weeks.
- Businesses in the Territories: The federal government is providing non-repayable support for eligible businesses in the territories through the Northern Business Relief Fund. The program is intended to provide eligible businesses with assistance in relation to their operating costs that are not already covered by other federal government measures. No new direct applications are being accepted after July 31, 2020.
- Sectoral Support: The federal government is providing specific support for a number of sectors, including: agriculture and agri-food; aquaculture and fisheries; culture, heritage and sport; air transportation; tourism; energy; as well as academic and research. For example, the federal government extended the timelines for spending the capital that junior mining companies raise via flow-through shares by 12 months.
- Canada's Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund: Together with Farm Credit Canada, the federal government introduced a $100-million Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund to support eligible businesses through unexpected disruptions.
Financial relief introduced by the Ontario government includes the following:
- Interest and Penalty Relief: Businesses received interest and penalty relief to file and make payments for certain provincially administered taxes for the period between April 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020. These taxes include but are not limited to employer health, tobacco, fuel, gas, beer, wine & spirits, insurance premiums, and mining. Outstanding returns and taxes that were due during the relief period are now due by October 1, 2020. Regular fillings and payment activities resumed on October 2, 2020.
- Employer Health Tax Relief: The Ontario government increased the Employer Health Tax exemption for eligible employers, from $490,000 to $1 million in respect of 2020, and introduced a relief period relief period for Ontario businesses who are unable to file or remit their provincial taxes on time. The relief period expired on October 1, 2020.
- Property Tax Relief: The Ontario government is postponing the planned property tax reassessment for 2021. Assessments for the 2021 taxation year will continue to be based on the same valuation date that was in effect for the 2020 taxation year.
- Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit: The Ontario government is providing a tax credit of up to $50,000 to certain types of corporations if they build, renovate, or acquire commercial or industrial buildings in designated regions on or after March 25, 2020.
- Rent Assistance for Small Businesses: In partnership with the federal government, the Ontario government is delivering the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (which is soon to be replaced by the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy) program to assist eligible small businesses and commercial landlords who are experiencing financial difficulties.
- Pausing Commercial Evictions: The Ontario government is temporarily providing relief to commercial tenants that are eligible for, but not participating in, federal/provincial rent assistance for evictions. It is doing so by: (1) halting and reversing evictions; (2) providing protection from being locked out by the landlord; and (3) providing protection from the seizure of assets. This relief applies from May 1, 2020 onwards.
- WSIB Payment Deferrals: Employers can defer their Workplace Safety and Insurance Board payments from March to August, 2020. Any employer participating in the deferral will have to report deferred amounts by October 31, 2020, but repayment for this six-month period is not required to begin until June 2021. Effective September 1, 2020, upcoming payment obligations will be due on the normal payment cycle for all businesses.
- Electricity Rates: As of June 1, 2020 and until October 31, 2020, Time of Use Regulated Price plan customers will be charged a rate of 12.8¢/kWh 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
- Adoption of Online Commerce: In partnership with the federal government, Ontario is supporting small businesses with pivoting their operations to include digital business models, and introducing the Recovery Activation Program, which provides training, advice and a customized blueprint for digitizing supply chains, customer acquisition systems and other operations.
- Support for Francophone Businesses: Ontario invested $1 million in the Francophone Community Grants Program to support the Ontario Francophone community through the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Support for Indigenous Businesses: The government of Ontario is providing loans of up to $50,000 to eligible indigenous-owned businesses that are either ineligible for, or unable to access, existing federal and provincial COVID-19 response initiatives for small businesses. Up to 50% of each loan will be in the form of a non-repayable grant, with no interest due on the loan portion until December 31, 2022.
- Tourism Support: The Ontario government is investing $1.5 million through the new Tourism Recovery and Economic Development Fund and providing promotional incentives for provincial attractions to help the province's tourism industry and welcome visitors back in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Support for Restaurants and Small Businesses: As a result of additional targeted health measures imposed in in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region, the Ontario government announced that it would be providing relief for local restaurants and other businesses impacted by the new public health measures in the form of $300 million to help offset fixed costs, including property taxes, hydro and natural gas bills.
- Main Street Recovery Plan for Small Businesses: The Ontario government plans to introduce legislation to support small businesses by, among other things, providing eligible small businesses with a one-time grant of up to $1,000, and creating 47 small business enterprise centres across the province to provide tailored advice and information on local, provincial and federal programs.
- Agricultural Initiatives: Ontario invested in number of initiatives to assist the agricultural industry. In October, pursuant to a new agreement between Ontario and the federal government, an additional $11.6 million will be made available to assist Ontario producers to help stop the spread of COVID-19, including building physical barriers for worker separation, upgrading HVAC systems and enhancing hand-washing facilities. This is in addition to the $15 million previously made available to support workplace safety enhancements in the sector through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program.
- Northern Businesses: Ontario launched the Northern Ontario Recovery Program ("NORP") to help businesses adapt to new COVID-19 public health guidelines. Companies can apply to NORP for funding assistance for projects like building renovations, safety installations, equipment purchases, marketing, and restructuring. Applications will be open from October 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
Financial support announced for businesses in Québec includes the following:
- Online Tool for Finding Assistance: The Quebec government has created an online tool that businesses can use to find the type of assistance best suited for their situation.
- Emergency Assistance for Small and Medium Enterprises: The Quebec government has an emergency assistance program for small and medium-sized enterprises that are experiencing financial difficulties during the pandemic and require $50,000 or less for a limited period of time.
- Concerted Temporary Action Program for Businesses: The Quebec government is providing financial support for eligible businesses who are facing liquidity problems and operate within specified industries.
- Concerted Action Program for Job Retention: The Quebec government has created a program that provides financial assistance to eligible businesses to support them in retaining their employees. This program reached its budgetary capacity as of June 15, 2020, and applicants are now being re-directed into other programs.
- Flexibility Measures for Existing Loans and Loan Guarantees: The Quebec government has implemented a moratorium on capital and interest payments of Local Investment Fund loans already granted.
- Workforce Training Measures: The Quebec government is offering to cover 50% of training programs for employees at risk of losing their jobs.
- Extension of Deadline for Annual Registration Fees: The Registraire des entreprises has extended the deadline for annual registration fees for the current year. The deadline has been extended to September 1, 2020 for all enterprises with a filing deadline between March 13, 2020 and August 31, 2020.
Financial support announced for businesses in Alberta includes the following:
- Corporate Income Tax Deferral: Along with extensions for filing tax returns and waiving arrears of interest on tax debts, Alberta is providing a deferral for Alberta income tax balances and instalment payments that were due between March 18, 2020 and September 30, 2020. These are deferred until September 30, 2020.
- Accelerated Job Creation Tax Cut: Alberta reduced its corporate tax rate to 8% (from 10%) effective July 1, 2020. This tax rate was scheduled to become effective on January 1, 2022 but was accelerated as a result of the pandemic.
- ATB Financial Support: ATB Financial small businesses customers can apply for a payment deferral on loans and lines of credit for up to six months. They can also access additional working capital. Other business and agriculture customers can seek support on a case-by-case basis.
- WCB Premium Payment Deferrals: The Alberta government is allowing small, medium and large businesses to defer paying their Workers' Compensation Board premiums until 2021. For small and medium businesses, the government will cover 50% of the 2020 premium when it is due in 2021. Businesses that have already paid 2020 premiums are eligible for a rebate or credit.
- Protecting Commercial Tenants: The Alberta Commercial Tenancies Protection Act and regulation was amended on July 23, 2020, and takes effect retroactive to March 17, 2020. The revised Act protects eligible commercial tenants experiencing financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic by preventing landlords from terminating tenancies, raising rent, and charging late fees and penalties. The protections apply from March 17, 2020 to August 31, 2020, subject to extension by the government.
- Relaunch Funding: The Alberta government created a funding program for eligible small and medium-sized businesses as well as non-profit organizations to assist in their relaunch costs. The program provides a one-time payment of up to $5,000 per business to organizations that saw a 50% revenue reduction in April or May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will remain open for 4 weeks following the commencement of Stage 3 of Alberta's relaunch.
- Deferral of Timber Dues: Alberta has permitted the deferral of certain timber dues for up to six months.
- Relief for the Child Care Sector: Alberta is providing relief to the child care sector through a three-phased approach. The first phase will provide some assistance with overhead costs. The second phase will provide some assistance to cover enhanced cleaning costs, training, and recruitment. The third phase will provide some assistance with deferred bills and unforeseen operational issues.
- Investment in Tech: Alberta invested $175 million over three years to Alberta Enterprise Corporation. Alberta Enterprise will use this money to support Alberta's technology entrepreneurs with access to capital, operational expertise and industry networks.
- Innovation Employment Grant: Alberta plans to introduce a grant for small and medium sized businesses (between $10 and $50 million of taxable capital) of up to 20% of their qualifying research and development expenditures. More details will be available when Alberta introduces legislation in the fall of 2020.
Financial support announced for businesses in British Columbia includes the following:
- Tax Deferral and Relief: British Columbia has deferred a number of tax-related obligations until September 30, 2020 and reduced some tax rates, including those that relate to commercial property.
- Protection for Commercial Tenants: For the duration of the state of emergency in British Columbia or until the federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program ends (whichever occurs first), British Columbia has provided additional protections (e.g. against re-entry, termination, and distraint by the landlord) to commercial tenants in certain circumstances.
- BC Hydro Relief: BC Hydro is providing relief for eligible small business customers who needed to close because of COVID-19 by waiving up to three months of their electricity charges. For commercial customers who do not qualify for the waiver relief, they may qualify for another form of relief that allows for the deferral of bill payment or flexible payment arrangements with no penalty. BC Hydro has also stopped disconnections for non-payment. These programs are closed as of June 30, 2020.
- FORTIS BC Relief: FORTIS BC is providing relief for eligible small businesses. The relief can be in the form of (1) bill credits to offset charges while the business was closed; (2) payment deferrals for the period from April 1 to June 30, 2020 (a repayment plan that will be spread out over the next 12 months will be automatically entered into when this type of relief is granted); and (3) depending on the situation, both relief options may be available.
- WorkSafeBC Relief: WorkSafeBC is allowing employers to defer insurance premium payments for the first and second quarter without penalty or interest. Payment for these two quarters will not be due until October 20, 2020. WorkSafeBC is also postponing the release of its 2021 preliminary rates, which are ordinarily published in July, until the fall of 2020.
- Waiver of Furloughed Workers Premiums: WorkSafeBC is waiving the premium on wages paid to furloughed workers for eligible businesses. The waiver is retroactive to March 15, 2020 and will continue for the duration of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidies program.
- Support for Regional Businesses: British Columbia is providing support for eligible businesses that are in Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands, the Columbia Basin, and central and northern British Columbia.
- Support for Liquor Licensees: British Columbia provided relief to eligible liquor licensees through a deferral of renewal fees to September 30, 2020. Further, from July 2020 until March 31, 2021, liquor licensees can purchase beer, wine and spirits at a reduced cost.
- Deferral of Stumpage Fees: The government has taken steps to help the forest sector by deferring stumpage fees for three months (with interest) for: Tree Farm Licence, Replaceable Forest Licence, and First Nations' Woodlands Licence holders who are in good standing with the province.
- Support for Oil and Gas Sector: British Columbia has announced support for oil and gas companies. This support includes $120 million in funding for oil and gas sites to clean up orphan wells. The province will do this through three programs: the Dormant Sites Reclamation Program, the Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation Program, and the Legacy Sites Reclamation Program.
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