COVID 19: Financial Resources Available for Businesses and Individuals

COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) has had an immediate and drastic effect on the Canadian economy. A number of provinces have shut down schools and declared a State of Emergency or a State of Public Health Emergency, which provides the government with extraordinary powers to make orders affecting the public, including those which suspend rights of individuals and businesses.

Many provincial governments have ordered the closure of all bars, nightclubs, and private entertainment facilities, including gyms, swimming pools, casinos, and bingo halls. These measures have significant financial impacts on businesses and organizations across Western Canada.

We have compiled the following summary of the resources and financial assistance that is presently available, which you may wish to consider as you prepare to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on your organization.

Federal Resources

A federal economic aid package worth $82 billion was unveiled on March 18, 2020 to help Canadian workers and businesses weather the COVID-19 storm. Additional information about the measures that are included can be found below. Information about the entire aid package can be found via the Department of Finance news release.

The following resources are available to businesses across Canada:

  • Canada’s Plan to Mobilize Industry was announced by the Federal Government on March 20, 2020. The plan will redirect many streams of government funding to fighting the pandemic. Canadian manufacturers or businesses with equipment or facilities that can be rapidly re-tooled to meet medical needs can respond through a portal on the Government’s website.
  • Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) will allow the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide more than $65 billion of additional support, largely targeted to small and medium-sized businesses. BDC and EDC are co-operating with private sector lenders to co-ordinate on credit solutions for individual businesses, including in sectors such as oil and gas, air transportation and tourism. The program includes:
    • Canada Emergency Business Account: The new Canada Emergency Business Account will provide 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. To qualify, these organizations will need to demonstrate they paid between $50,000 to $1 million in total payroll in 2019.
    • Loan Guarantee for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: EDC is working with financial institutions to issue new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to SMEs.
    • Co-Lending Program for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: BDC is working with financial institutions to co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements. Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts of up to $6.25 million through the program.
  • Export Development Canada (EDC): EDC provides insurance and financial services, bonding products and small business solutions to Canadian exporters and investors and their international buyers.
  • Business Development Canada (BDC): Learn more about additional financing through BDC, including small business loans, working capital loans and purchase order financing. BDC also has free template business continuity plans and templates for entrepreneurs to use to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. For more information and to view available plans, see BDC’s Business Continuity Guide.
  • Farm Credit Canada: The near-term credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector will also be increased through Farm Credit Canada due to an additional $5 billion in funding from the Federal Government. Learn more about applying for financing through FCC.
  • Bank of Canada: The Bank of Canada is announcing its intention to launch the Bankers’ Acceptance Purchase Facility (BAPF). The Bankers’ Acceptance market is one of Canada’s core funding markets and a key source of financing for small and medium-size corporate borrowers. Starting the week of March 23, the Bank will conduct secondary market purchases of one-month Bankers’ Acceptances issued and guaranteed by any Canadian bank and of sufficiently high quality, broadly equivalent to a minimum short-term credit rating of R-1 (low). Additional details to follow.
  • Flexibility for Taxpayers: Several measures have been implemented by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to assist taxpayers. Most of these measures are applicable to individuals only, but the following measures are applicable to businesses as well:
    • the due date for any payments owed to the CRA by all taxpayers is deferred to August 31, 2020, with no interest or penalties;
    • the CRA will not contact any small or medium businesses to initiate any post-assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks;
    • effective immediately the CRA will recognize electronic signatures as having met the signature requirements of the Income Tax Act, as a temporary administrative measure; and
    • the Liaison Officer service offers help to owners of small businesses to understand their tax obligations. Traditionally available in-person, this service is now available over the phone.
    • for more information, read our Federal Government Grants Tax Relief Resulting From COVID-19 blog or the Department of Finance’s Economic Response Plan.
  • Work-Sharing Program: The Work-Sharing Program is implementing temporary special measures to support employers and employees affected by the downturn in business caused by COVID-19. The maximum duration of the Work-Sharing program has been extended from 38 weeks to 76 weeks.

Learn more about temporary special measures for the downturn in business due to COVID-19 and for the forestry and steel and aluminum sector.

  • Wage Subsidy: Employers may qualify for one of two federal COVID-19 wage subsidy programs. The previously announced 10% subsidy for smaller employers remains in place while all employers who have experienced a 30% decline in revenue from the same period in 2019 will receive a 75% wage subsidy. More information about the two programs may be found in our Federal Government Announces COVID-19 Wage Subsidy blog.
  • Air Transportation Sector Lease Waiver: the federal government is also waiving ground lease rents from March 2020 through to December 2020 for the 21 airport authorities that pay rent to the federal government.
  • Financial Relief programs being offered by lenders:
    • Bank of Montreal, CIBC, TD Canada, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank and Scotiabank have announced new plans which will help those effected by the financial consequences of COVID-19. Each of the 6 banks have announced that they will be allowing the deferral of mortgage payments for up to 6 months.  Details on the specific plans of each of the banks can be found below.
    • BMO: To help alleviate some of the financial pressures that Canadians may be facing, BMO has introduced a financial relief program for clients impacted by COVID-19. The financial relief program is tailored to each individual’s circumstances and needs and could include: deferral of payments on mortgages for up to six months as well as deferral of payments on loans and credit cards. The program also includes accommodations for BMO Small Business and Business Banking clients. Please contact BMO at 1-877-788-1923 to speak with a BMO representative.
    • CIBC: CIBC is introducing assistance for clients impacted by job loss or other circumstances and urges those that need help to contact the bank to review options. Clients in financial hardship can contact their CIBC Advisor or call 1-877-454-9030 to discuss options to improve their cash flow over the short term by reviewing their payment obligations.
    • TD Canada: If you are directly impacted by COVID-19 and as a result are facing financial challenges, you can contact TD to review your options at 1-888-720-0075.
    • National Bank of Canada: Business clients who find themselves in difficulty due to current events will be able to benefit from flexible solutions tailored to their specific situation and industry. The experts at National Bank will assess each situation and account managers will find solutions based on the client’s individual situation. Clients wishing to take advantage of the relief measures are invited to get in touch with their usual point of contact. Learn more about National Bank’s financial relief plan.
    • RBC: Details on RBC’s relief plan have not yet been announced, but is expected in the days to come. Updates are anticipated to be posted on RBC’s COVID-19 page.
    • Scotiabank: Scotiabank has announced additional measures to reduce and delay the transmission of COVID-19 and to provide financial relief to those who need it most. Please contact your Advisor or Relationship Manager or call 1-800-4-SCOTIA and Scotiabank will work with you to find a solution that will hopefully meet your unique needs. Learn more about Scotiabanks’s relief and support measures.
    • Servus Credit Union: Servus will be communicating details of its financial relief plan soon. Servus encourages clients to contact the member contact centre, open 24/7 at 1-877-378-8728.
  • The following resources are also available to individuals:
    • Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): announced on March 25, 2020, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit replaces the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit. The CERB is a taxable government payment meant to help those grappling with job loss or other circumstances that have resulted is sudden loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers $2,000 per month for up to four months.
    • Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit: For Canadians without paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodation) who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits is waived for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim, and the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits is also waived. Learn more about the benefits.
    • Flexibility for Taxpayers: in addition to the measures listed above, which are available to businesses and individuals, the due date for 2019 tax returns for individuals is deferred to June 1, 2020 (effective immediately).
    • GST Credit: the Federal Government is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC). This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-2020 benefit year. The average boost to income for those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples (effective May, subject to Royal Assent).
    • Child Tax Benefit Top Up: the Federal Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-2020 benefit year, by $300 per child. The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment (effective May, subject to Royal Assent).
    • Deferral of Student Loan Payments: the government is proposing placing a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans for all individuals currently in the process of repaying these loans (effective early April, subject to Royal Assent).

Western Canada Resources by Province

British Columbia

The British Columbia government has not yet unveiled an official recovery plan, but the Minister of Finance has assured businesses and residents that they will receive financial assistance and support. In addition to pledging to amend the Employment Standards Code to prevent layoffs of employees who are forced to stay home from work due to COVID-19, the provincial government is also considering options like rent banks and expanding unemployment benefits to self-employed, part-time and contract workers. Learn more.

On March 23, 2020, the British Columbia government unveiled its $5 billion aid package for individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 economic shutdown. Details on the package can be found here.

The following is a list of some of the British Columbia specific resources available to businesses:

  • Employer Health Tax Payments: Effective immediately, businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until September 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt from the tax.
  • Extension of Tax Filing Deadlines: the province is extending tax filing and payment deadlines for the provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax on short-term accommodation, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax until September 30, 2020.
  • Delayed PST Budget 2020 Tax Changes: the scheduled April 1 increase to the provincial carbon tax, as well as the new PST registration requirements on e-commerce and the implementation of PST on sweetened carbonated drinks, will be delayed.
  • Reduced School Tax: school tax will be cut in half for business and light- and major-industry property classes.
  • The Province of British Columbia has compiled a list of COVID-19 Economic Development Resources.
  • The Province of British Columbia offers a number of free business planning and continuity resources.
  • The Squamish Chamber of Commerce has provided a joint provincial update with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.
  • The Vancouver Economic Commission is monitoring economic impacts of COVID-19 on Vancouver’s economy and local businesses. Report the impact of COVID-19 on your business and find more resources on mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.
  • The following companies in B.C. are offering financial relief from payments:
    • B.C. Hydro: The COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program provides customers the option to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty. Customers are encouraged to call BC Hydro’s customer team at 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224-9376) to discuss bill payment options.
    • City of Port Coquitlam utility bills: The City of Port Coquitlam is waiving the March 31 penalty and extending the deadline for payment of 2020 utility bills which includes water, sewer and solid waste. The next due date is May 31 but the city will consider extending it further closer to the time.
    • ICBC: Customers on a monthly payment plan who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 may defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty.

The following resources are available to individuals in British Columbia:

  • BC Emergency Benefit for Workers: a one-time $1,000 payment in May of 2020 to people who lost income because of COVID-19. B.C. residents who receive Federal Employment Insurance, or the new Federal Emergency Care Benefit, or the new Federal Emergency Support Benefit are eligible. Applications will open in April 2020.
  • Climate Action Tax Credit: A one-time enhancement to the climate action tax credit will be paid in July 2020 for moderate to low-income families. An adult will receive up to $218.00 (increased from $174.00), and a child will receive $64.00 (increased from $51.00).
  • COVID-19 Support for Renters and Landlords: a new temporary rental supplement of up to $500 per month will be available to low to moderate income renters who are facing financial hardship but do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs. In addition the government of British Columbia announced halting of evictions, except in extreme cases where there are safety concerns, and freezing rent increases while the state of emergency is ongoing. Applications for the rental supplement will open soon on the BC Housing website.
  • Student Loan Repayment Holiday: British Columbia Student Loans are automatically frozen for six months effective March 30, 2020.
  • A comprehensive list of the resources available to individuals in British Columbia can be found at http://www.bc211.ca/ à Financial Assistance.

Alberta

On March 18, 2020, the Alberta government outlined its plan to provide financial support to Albertans affected by COVID-19. The specific supports being provided are outlined below, and the full news release.

On March 23, 2020, the Alberta government rolled out additional supports for Albertans and businesses. The specific supports are outlined below, and the full news release can be found here.

The following resources are presently available to businesses in Alberta:

  • Education Property Tax Deferral: effective immediately, the government will defer education property tax for businesses for six months. The government expects municipalities to set education property tax rates as they normally would, but defer collection. Deferred amounts will be repaid in future tax years. The government encourages commercial landlords to pass on these savings to their tenants through reduced or deferred payments. This will help employers continue to manage their debts, pay their employees and stay in business.
  • WCB Premium Deferral: Private sector employers will have immediate financial relief by deferring WCB premiums until early 2021, effectively for one year. Employers who have already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit. For small and medium businesses, the government will cover 50 per cent of the premium when it is due. Large employers will also receive a break by having their 2020 WCB premium payments deferred until 2021, at which time their premiums will be due.
  • Tax Deferral: The collection of corporate income tax balances and instalment payments is deferred until August 31, 2020.
  • Homeless Shelters and Service Providers: The Government of Alberta has committed $30 million to adult homeless shelters and women’s emergency shelters.
  • Charities and Not-for-Profit Organizations: The Government of Alberta has committed $30 million to charities, non-profits and civil society organizations. Further details and links on how to and apply for additional funding can be found here.
  • A comprehensive list of government loan programs applicable to small businesses is available.
  • The following companies in Alberta are offering financial relief from payments:
    • Epcor: Customers who expect to have difficulty paying their bills are encouraged to contact Epcor at 310-4300. Epcor team members can discuss accounts and situations, and work with customers on payment options and arrangements. Learn more about Epcor’s offerings.
    • Enmax: the program includes offering customers affected by COVID-19 access to increased payment flexibility including installment plans, extending payment dates and/or suspension of collection-related activities on their ENMAX and City of Calgary municipal services. In addition, Enmax has suspended any disconnection of electricity service for non-payment until further notice. Learn more.
    • ATB financial: Personal banking customers can apply for a deferral on their ATB loans, lines of credit and mortgages for up to six months. Continue reading for details on ATB’s financial relief plan.
    • Alberta Credit Unions: Credit union members will have access to a variety of programs and solutions designed to ease difficulties with loan payments and short-term cash flow. Contact your credit union to work out a plan for your personal situation.

The following resources are available to individuals in Alberta:

  • Emergency Isolation Support: a temporary program for working adult Albertans who must self-isolate because they meet the Government of Alberta’s published criteria for self-isolation, including persons who are the sole care-giver for a dependent who must self-isolate because they meet the public health criteria, and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while they are self-isolated. This will be a one-time payment, intended to bridge the gap until the federal emergency payments begin in April.  The province expects that the online application for this payment will be available the week of March 23, 2020. Learn more about Alberta’s COVID-19 supports for individuals.
  • Utility Payment Holiday: Residential, farm, and small commercial customers will be able to defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off, regardless of the service provider.
  • Student Loan Repayment Holiday: Alberta Student Loans will be subject to a six-month, interest free, moratorium for all Albertans in the process of repaying these loans. There is no need to apply for this benefit.
  • Education Property Tax Freeze: Property taxes will be frozen at last year’s level.
  • Changes to Eviction Process: If a residential tenant fails to pay rent, landlords are now required to work with tenants to work out a rental payment plan before bringing an application for eviction with the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Services. In addition, the government has suspended civil enforcement of evictions for non-payment of residential rent until April 30, 2020. Learn more about the changes to the eviction process.
  • A comprehensive list of general financial resources available to individuals in Alberta can be found here.

The following resources are available in municipalities across Alberta:

  • City of Edmonton
    • The Edmonton EXPO Centre is being activated as an isolation and care centre.
    • Hope Mission and The Mustard Seed will activate additional capacity to meet social distancing guidelines.
    • Edmonton City Council has voted to approve deferrals on Business Improvement Area Tax.
  • City of Calgary
    • Isolation and care will operate out of hotel rooms.
    • Alpha House, the Calgary Drop-In Centre, The Mustard Seed and Inn from the Cold will activate additional spaces to meet social distancing guidelines.
  • City of Red Deer
    • Safe Harbour Society has relocated to accommodate an additional 100 spaces.

The Alberta government is providing the following funding and assistance for Alberta’s energy sector:

  • Funding the Alberta Energy Regulator’s industry levy for six months ($113 million);
  • Extending the term of mineral agreements expiring in 2020 by one year to provide additional time to raise capital and plan future activities; and
  • Extending a $100 million loan to the Orphan Well Association to bolster immediate reclamation efforts.

 Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan government released a scaled back budget focusing on economic and health supports for the COVID-19 pandemic on March 18, 2020. The government has indicated it is well positioned to provide additional resources to address the health and economic challenges of COVID-19, but did not specify what those additional resources would look like. Read the full release from the government.

On March 20, 2020, the Saskatchewan government outlined its financial support plan for Saskatchewan residents.  The specific supports being provided are outlined below, and the full release can be found here.

The following resources are available to businesses in Saskatchewan:

  • PST Deferral and Audit Suspension: Saskatchewan businesses who are unable to remit their PST due to cashflow concerns will have relief from penalty and interest charges. Businesses that are unable to file their provincial tax return(s) by the due date may submit a request for relief from penalty and interest charges on the return(s) affected.  Audit program and compliance activities have also been suspended.
  • Crown Utility Interest Deferral Program: All Crown utilities will implement a bill-deferral program, allowing for a zero-interest bill deferral for up to six months for Saskatchewan customers whose ability to make bill payments may be impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Amendments to Saskatchewan Employment Act and Regulations: During a period of public emergency, businesses will not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice when they lay-off staff if it is for a period of 12 weeks or less in a 16-week period.  If an employer lays off employees periodically for a total of more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, the employees are considered to be terminated and are entitled to pay instead of notice as outlined in the Act.  Saskatchewan Employment Standards has webinars available on these amendments
  • Business Response Team: the Government of Saskatchewan has established a Business Response Team, led by the Ministry of Trade and Export Development, which will work with businesses to identify program supports relevant to particular businesses. For more information, businesses can contact the Business Response Team by calling 1-844-800-8688, emailing supportforbusiness@gov.sk.ca or by visiting saskatchewan.ca/covid19-businesses.
  • ISC Suspension Order: Information Services Corporation (ISC) has suspended the strike off provisions for non-profit corporations, co-operative and new generation co-operative entities. The suspension is meant to assist non-profit corporations, co-operatives, and new generation co-operatives that are not in a position to file annual returns and financial statements at the Corporate Registry due to delays in annual meeting caused by the restrictions and recommendations on public gatherings. Pursuant to this order, annual return late filing fees for Not-For-Profit corporations and co-operatives will be suspended.

The following resources are available to individuals in Saskatchewan:

  • Sick Leave: the Province of Saskatchewan has amended the Saskatchewan Employment Act to introduce a new unpaid public health emergency leave and removed the requirements of 13-weeks employment and a doctors’ note to access sick leave.
  • Self-Isolation Support Program: this program is targeted toward Saskatchewan residents who are forced to self-isolate, but are not covered by federal employment insurance programs, employer programs, private insurance, or other supports. This program will provide $450 per week, for a maximum of two weeks or $900.  To be eligible, the resident must 1) have contracted COVID-19 or are showing symptoms; 2) have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19; or 3) have recently returned from international travel and have been required to self-isolate.
  • Utility Interest Deferral: this program will allow all crown utility customers to waive interest on late bill payments for up to six months.
  • Student Loan Repayment Moratorium: Saskatchewan student loans will be subject to a six-month moratorium on repayment, mirroring the federal program.
  • Saskatchewan Employment Supplement (SES): SES provides assistance to families with lower-incomes who have children. It is a monthly payment that supplements income from a job, farming, self-employment, or from child or spousal support. See further details and eligibility information
  • Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Deadline Extension: The Federal and Provincial Agricultural Ministers announced that the deadline to apply, reinstate, cancel or make changes to crop insurance contracts has been extended to April 13, 2020. Accordingly, producers (both individuals and corporations) interested in Crop Insurance coverage for the 2020 year now have an additional two weeks to finalize their contracts.
  • A comprehensive list of general financial resources available to individuals in Saskatchewan can be found at http://sk.211.ca/ à Income Support

Manitoba

On March 19, 2020, the Manitoba government presented Budget 2020 to the legislature, as well as a supplemental budget to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The full release can be found here.

The following resources are available to businesses in Manitoba:

  • Tax Deferral: The province will extend the April and May filing deadlines for small and medium-sized businesses with monthly remittances of no more than $10,000. Businesses will have up to two additional months to remit retail sales taxes and the Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy, commonly called the payroll tax. The minister noted the department will work with businesses regarding flexible repayment options above the $10,000 cap. See the full release.
  • Employment Standards Layoff Rules: The province has added a temporary exception to employment standards regulations to give employers more time to recall employees laid off as a result of COVID-19. Under current employment standards legislation, employees who have been laid off for eight or more weeks in a 16-week period are deemed to have been terminated and are entitled to wages in lieu of notice. The province is making temporary amendments that would ensure any period of layoff occurring after March 1, 2020, will not be counted toward the period after which a temporary layoff would become a permanent termination. See the full release.

The following resources are available to individuals in Manitoba:

  • Child Care for Essential Workers: the government announced a $27.6 million dollar plan to support childcare for essential workers. The full release can be found here. Essential, front-line workers who need child-care options should call 204-945-0776 or (toll-free) 1-888-213-4754, or e-mail cdcinfo@gov.mb.ca. All questions about the new funding programs available to child-care centres and early childhood educators should be sent to ecegrant@gov.mb.ca.
  • Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Program: the government has invested $4.5 million in the mental health of Manitobans by introducing a program to help address anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help Manitobans experiencing anxiety, the province has partnered with Morneau Shepell, Canada’s leading provider of technology-enabled HR services, to launch an internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) program free of charge to all Manitobans 16 years old and over. The province will spend $4.5 million to provide these services to Manitobans for up to a year. See the full release.
  • Rent increase freeze and eviction hearing postponement: The province has suspended any rent increases scheduled to take effect on April 1 or later. The Residential Tenancies Branch (RTB) and Residential Tenancies Commission (RTC) have postponed all hearings for non-urgent matters to halt evictions. See the full release.
  • A comprehensive list of the resources available to individuals in Manitoba can be found at https://mb.211.ca/ à Financial

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