COVID-19Guidance and Resources for Business
Here’s What Your Chamber is Doing
- We’ve submitted a letter to City Council asking for measures to be put in place to limit the risk exposure for business. Read it here.
- We’re assembling and streamlining business-related information and resources as they become available. If you’re looking for information on the resources, programs and relief strategies being put into place by the federal, provincial and municipal governments, you’ll find it here. Use the orange navigation menu above to browse this page.
- We’re reaching out to our Members. Expect a call from a Chamber team-member to discuss how we can help you and how we’re advocating for measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on business.
- We’re keeping you connected. Follow us on Facebook for updates on business resources and upbeat news about what other Members are doing to help sustain our community during this difficult time.
Latest Update from the Chamber:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has just announced new measures to help small and medium-sized businesses avoid layoffs during the COVID-19 crisis:
– wage subsidy increased from 10% to 75%, backdated to March 15, for qualifying businesses
– new Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) guarantees $40,000 loans interest free for 1 year; qualifying businesses to be forgiven $10,000
– GST/HST payments, as well as duties and taxes owed on imports, deferred until June.
More details to follow.
Subscribe Here for Updates
Upcoming COVID19 Events for BusinessNo events scheduled.
Resources for Business
Planning for Disruption & Continuity
- Checklist: Maintaining business during an infectious disease outbreak
- Thunder Bay District Health Unit: Businesses and Workplaces COVID-19 page
- Ontario Chamber of Commerce Toolkit: COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness Toolkit for Ontario Businesses
- Canadian Chamber of Commerce Toolkit: Canadian Chamber of Commerce Pandemic Preparedness for Business
- BDC: Continuity plan toolkit
Ontario Provincial Measures & Subsidies
Ontario's List of Essential Services
The full list of essential services is available from the Ontario website. Please be aware that this list may continue to evolve. We’ll attempt to update links to keep you as current as possible.
Businesses who have questions about closures of at-risk workplaces or how emergency measures impact their business or employment can call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659. Learn more about this.
For the purposes of this order, businesses include any-for-profit, non-profit or other entity providing the goods and services described herein. This does not preclude the provision of work and services by entities not on this list either online, by telephone or by mail/delivery. Note that teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses.
Employer Health Tax
Eligible private-sector employers with annual payrolls up to $5 million would be exempt from EHT on the first $1 million of total Ontario remuneration in 2020. The maximum EHT relief from the exemption would increase by $9,945 to $19,500 for 2020 for eligible employers. About 57,000 private-sector employers would pay less EHT, including about 30,000 who would not pay any EHT for 2020, effectively eliminating EHT for these employers for one year. The exemption would return to its current level of $490,000 on January 1, 2021.
Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit
The Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit would be available to eligible businesses that construct, renovate or acquire qualifying commercial and industrial buildings in designated regions of the province, saving them up to $45,000 in the year.
$6 Billion in Tax Deferrals
Beginning April 1, 2020, the Province is providing flexibility to about 100,000 businesses in Ontario to help manage their cash flows during this challenging time. This will continue for a period of five months, up until August 31, 2020, and is expected to make available $6 billion to improve the cash flows of Ontario businesses.
For this period, the Province will not apply any penalty or interest on any late-filed returns or incomplete or late tax payments under select provincially administered taxes, such as the Employer Health Tax, Tobacco Tax and Gas Tax.
Payment Deferral on WSIB
Working in conjunction with the government of Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will allow employers to defer payments for a period of six months. This will provide employers with $1.9 billion in financial relief.
All employers covered by the WSIB’s workplace insurance are automatically eligible for the financial relief package. Schedule 1 employers with premiums owed to the WSIB will be allowed to defer reporting and payments until August 31, 2020. The deferral will also apply to Schedule 2 businesses that pay WSIB for the cost related to their workplace injury and illness claims. In addition, no interest will be accrued on outstanding premium payments and no penalties will be charged during this six-month deferral period.
For a 45-day period, the government is working to suspend time-of-use electricity rates, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour. This reduced price will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week to all time-of-use customers, who make up the majority of electricity consumers in the province. By switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50 per cent compared to on-peak rates.
Ontario needs supplies. If your business or organization can provide medical products such as ventilators, swabs, masks and eye protection, fill out this online form to tell them what you have.
Federal Measures & Subsidies
The federal government will provide eligible small businesses with a 10% wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
Employers benefiting from this measure would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction as well as not-for-profit organisations and charities. You will be able to reduce your remittances of income tax withheld on your employees’ remuneration, and you will be able to keep a portion of your employees’ income tax instead of giving it all to CRA.
Go to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website for more information
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
To support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the government has proposed legislation to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB would be a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.
The CERB would cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB would apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).
Additionally, workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19, would also qualify for the CERB. This would help businesses keep their employees as they navigate these difficult times, while ensuring they preserve the ability to quickly resume operations as soon as it becomes possible.
The EI system was not designed to process the unprecedented high volume of applications received in the past week. Given this situation, all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are EI-eligible or not, would be able to receive the CERB to ensure they have timely access to the income support they need.
Canadians who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits as of today would continue to receive their benefits and should not apply to the CERB. If their EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, they could apply for the CERB once their EI benefits cease, if they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19. Canadians who have already applied for EI and whose application has not yet been processed would not need to reapply. Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.
The government is working to get money into the pockets of Canadians as quickly as possible. The portal for accessing the CERB would be available in early April. EI eligible Canadians who have lost their job can continue to apply for EI here, as can Canadians applying for other EI benefits.
Canadians would begin to receive their CERB payments within 10 days of application. The CERB would be paid every four weeks and be available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.
Extensions on Filing
- Individuals have until June 1, 2020, to submit their income tax return.
- For trusts (having a taxation year ending on December 31, 2019), tax filing is deferred until May 1, 2020.
Individuals and businesses will be able to defer their income tax payment (for taxes owe between March 18, 2020 and September 2020) until after August 31, 2020.
Additional Supports for Small Businesses
- Introducing an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through CRA to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment. More details will be announced by the government.
- Boosting Canada Child Benefit payments by $300 per child
- CRA will recognize electronic signatures as having met the signature requirements of the Income Tax Act as a temporary administrative measure.
- Audits: No more post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks.
- Collections: More leniency when speaking to your collections officer.
- The Liaison Officer Service will be available over the phone (details to be announced). Liaison officers can help small business owners understand their tax requirements. Request a Liaison Officer here.
Work Sharing Program
The Work Sharing Program is a three-way agreement that can be negotiated between Service Canada, the employer and the employee to provide EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers. Changes to the program are:
- Extension of the maximum duration from 38 weeks to 76 weeks.
- The 30 day wait period will be waived for only those who have used the work-sharing program in the past.
Note: Applications take a minimum of 30 days to negotiate. If you do not have 30 days than this program is likely not for you.
Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Program
More information of the Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Program available here.
- The new Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) provides $10 billion of additional support to businesses experiencing cash flow challenges through the BDC and EDC (details to be announced). Your bank/credit union might also have solutions more targeted to your needs.
- There’s been an increase in Farm Credit Canada, which provides credit to farmers and the agri-food sector.
- The government will provide increased flexibility to lenders to defer mortgage payments on homeowner government-insured mortgage loans (details to be announced).
Banks have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis. They can provide:
- Up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages
- Opportunity for relief on other credit products
For all the details, read the federal government’s full program.
Resources for Employees
FAQ COVID-19: Layoffs, salary, EI and more (CCC)
Download this document from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce here.
FAQ COVID-19: Layoffs, salary, EI and more | The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) – March 23, 2020
Employment lawyer Daniel Lublin answers frequently asked questions from workers
This document responds to employee-side questions, including:
Q. I don’t feel safe going into the workplace because of COVID-19. Can I stay home?
Q. Can my employer require me to accept a reduced wage or fewer hours due to COVID-19?
Q. If my employer shuts down because of COVID-19, am I entitled to severance?
Q. My child’s school is closed. Does my employer have to give me time off so I can care for my child?
Q. If I have COVID-19, am I entitled to my salary while I’m quarantined?
Q. If my workplace tells me not to come into work because it is closing down for several weeks, will I be paid for the time off?
Q. Can my employer temporarily lay me off because of COVID-19?
Q. Can my employer force me to use my vacation time during a business closing?
Q. What types of questions can my employer ask me related to COVID-19?
Q. Can I apply for employment insurance sickness benefits if I self-quarantine without any symptoms?
Download the document (pdf) for the responses to these questions.
FAQ from Business Members
How do I fill Records of Employment (ROEs)?
- If your employees are directly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and they are no longer working, you must issue a Record of Employment (ROE).
- When the employee is sick or quarantined, use code D (Illness or injury) as the reason for separation (block 16). Do not add comments.
- When the employee is no longer working due to a shortage of work because the business has closed or decreased operations due to coronavirus (COVID-19), use code A (Shortage of work). Do not add comments.
- When the employee refuses to come to work but is not sick or quarantined, use code E (Quit) or code N (Leave of absence), as appropriate. Avoid adding comments unless absolutely necessary.
We are not sure how long this situation will last – What do employers need to know?
Remain positive and calm. This situation is unprecedented for all businesses as we adapt to these continuous changes. Restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres and concert venues have been ordered to close. Bars and restaurants may only provide takeout and delivery service.
It is recommended that employers facilitate virtual work arrangements to enable employees to work from home wherever possible.
If a virtual workplace is not possible, employers should use their judgment to sustain operations in a manner that maintains social distancing.
For more information on operating a workplace during this pandemic, please visit Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s Businesses and Workplaces COVID-19 page.
What are all levels of government doing to support business during this pandemic?
All levels of government are working hard to ensure that business continuity is protected as much as possible, while protecting residents. Many announcements have been made this week at all levels of government.
Information updates from all levels of government are being shared continuously through their respective COVID-19 webpages. This is a rapidly evolving situation and updates are shared on dedicated COVID-19 webpages for each of the sites. Your Chamber team is working to provide clear and understandable details for members of the business community; watch for updates in the section above for our latest videos and resources to help you navigate.
How can I protect my businesses and property while it is closed? What municipal measures are being undertaken? I am worried about my property being vandalized.
The Waterfront District BIA shared this great check-list to help keep your premises secure:
- Keep the lights on
- Remove ALL cash and receipts
- Do not leave any valuables clearly visible or accessible
- All safes and tills should be emptied and moved off-site for safe storage
- Keep all cash drawers open to show that nothing is in the drawers
- All ATMs should be emptied and moved off-site for safe storage
- All alcohol products removed from bar and put in secured storage areas (no alcohol left visible from outside)
- Consider posting “NO CASH or Valuables on Premises” signage
- Deactivate all scheduled FOB door openings (ie. Cleaners, deliveries, etc)
- Disconnect all kitchen gas lines from their gas source
Will there be relief for payments, loans and taxes?
Each level of government is looking for ways to support residents and businesses during this time. The federal government has announced an $82-billion aid package to help Canadians and businesses cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic, including income supports, wage subsidies and tax deferrals. The package includes direct supports as well as business liquidity through tax deferrals.
On March 19, the Government announced:
- a new Business Credit Availability Program to make more than $10 billion available to Canadian businesses in financing and credit insurance solutions through:
- the Canada Revenue Agency will defer tax payments until August 31, 2020, to help businesses with cash flow
- immediate relief for small businesses with a 10% wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer
- a new Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 biweekly for up to 15 weeks for self-employed people and others who are not eligible for EI sickness benefits
- increased credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector through Farm Credit Canada
How can I be using this time wisely for maximum effect?
Although this is a difficult time to be operating a business, it is important to stay engaged. Thunder Bay is a resilient community and when we move from crisis to recovery, we want businesses to be as prepared as possible. Some suggestions to keep working on your business that you haven’t had time for:
- Small, minor repairs that you have been meaning to get to.
- Continue telling your story on your social media channels to keep your customers engaged and to create value for them. Suggestions include:
- if you have inventory, film and share an unboxing, or a tutorial on how to use one of your popular products/services.
- share the story of how your company started and why you wanted to become an entrepreneur.
- consider offering a digital or online service, or the development of an online platform or course.
- consider staging content photos if you can safely access your office, or create your own branded stock photos from home to use later.
- Cleaning and organizing the space and files.
- Re-design your window display.
- Get that PAPERWORK done!!!!
- Take some free online courses on marketing and business planning.
- Tidy up your website.
- Strategize and plan your next marketing and advertising campaign to welcome back customers and visitors.
- Plan your re-opening party or customer celebration events.
- Help others in the community to stay connected. Check on your neighbour.
- #ChooseTBayFirst by loving and sharing social media posts that celebrate our community is coming together.
I may have to consider laying off my employees – what do I need to know?
Employment Standards Act (ESA)
The existing leave provisions under the ESA remain in effect. Namely, any employee who has worked for at least two consecutive weeks is eligible for three days of leave (unpaid) due to personal illness. In addition, employees may also be allowed an additional three days of leave (unpaid) to care for children, a spouse or another close relative who is experiencing illness or a medical emergency. The Ontario government has passed legislation to provide job protection for employees unable to work due to:
- being under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19, or providing care to a person related to COVID-19, including a school or day-care closure.
- being in isolation or quarantine.
The proposed amendments will apply retroactively to January 25, 2020.
Temporary COVID-19 Income Support for Workers
Special allowances are being made for employees on payroll who do not have paid sick leave and who are sick due to COVID-19, quarantined or who must remain at home to care for children. In these cases the federal government’s Employment Insurance (EI) will:
- Waive the one-week waiting period for those individuals in quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure became effective on March 15, 2020.
- Waive the requirement to provide a doctor’s note or medical certificate.
Based on the Prime Minister’s public statements, many have (understandably) been led to believe that staff lay-offs brought about by economic causes due to COVID-19 related pressures will also be able to take advantage of these accelerated EI allowances. This is not the case. At this time, the one-week waiver does not apply to employees who are out of work due to temporary lay-offs or business closures.
Staff who have already completed their application for EI sickness benefits can call to request their one-week waiting period waived, 1-833-381-2725 (only for sick or quarantined employees affected by COVID-19).
Stay tuned, this is a changing issue. The latest EI program information is available online at, https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html
Temporary COVID-19 Income Support for the Self-Employed
The Emergency Care Benefit has been created by the Federal government and will provide up to $900 bi-weekly, for as many as 15 weeks. This income supplement will be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provide income support to:
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for the EI sickness benefits discussed above.
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, but who would not otherwise qualify for EI sick benefits.
- Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures, and are unable to earn employment income, regardless of whether they qualify for EI or not.
The government is only setting this system up now, and the benefit will have to be claimed retroactively in April 2020. Workers will need to certify that they meet eligibility requirements, and will need to re-certify eligibility every two weeks while claiming the benefit. The easiest way to apply for this benefit will be through your CRA MyAccount secure portal at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/account-individuals.html. Provided you do online banking, you will be able to access the portal through that log-in process which will appear at the link above.
There is also the Emergency Support Benefit which was announced in the Economic Response Plan. This benefit is for those who do not qualify for EI benefits, have lost their job, or are self-employed and not caring for a sick relative or in self-quarantine as mentioned above. There has been $5B set aside for this benefit and is designed for 14 weeks of support. Further details on this program are expected shortly.
Longer-Term Supports for Workers & Businesses
The EI Work Sharing Program (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/work-sharing.html) has been in place for sometime and provides EI benefits in workplaces experiencing a general slow-down but do not wish to close or lay-off staff completely. Workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours can take advantage of this program during which the company would pay wages for the reduced hours worked each week while the EI program ‘tops-up’ the balance.
The government has indicated it will ease the otherwise fairly stringent eligibility requirements and will simplify the application process. This was announced on March 11, 2020 and we recommend you consult the weblink provided above if this is a program that may assist your workplace.
Reduction of Payroll Taxes
Eligible small employers will be able to apply for a temporary wage subsidy for a period of ninety days. The subsidy is equal to 10% of your payroll up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and a total of $25,000 per employer. More details are expected on exactly how this will roll out.
use best practices to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, at home and at work.
- Actively encourage anyone who is feeling ill to stay home and away from others.
- Use and encourage good hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing and avoiding touch.
- Consider implementing social distancing measures, including working remotely.
- Reschedule any mass gatherings, events, conferences, etc.
get the latest facts from reliable sources
Stay up to date on the rapidly evolving situation, and on the nature of the virus itself, by frequently checking provincial, national and international websites:
supporting our community through the outbreak
- Offer and provide support to employees and coworkers who are at home.
- Consider whether your organization can provide goods or services to assist those in self-isolation (ie: grocery delivery, online or telephone counselling, internet services).
- Consider how to support local, small businesses who are particularly financially vulnerable during a pandemic (ie: shop online, purchase gifts card for a later use)
- Consider the less-fortunate: lower-income families, particularly service-sector employees, are the most likely to experience hardship as a result of the disruption to our economy. Consider donating extra money to our local food banks and feeding program to help feed people who are having difficulty making ends meet in this challenging time.