The COVID-19 financial relief available to Canadian businesses

3 minute read

In a few short weeks, Coronavirus (COVID-19) has upended the economy and expectations of business owners across the country.

Merchants used to serving customers face-to-face have been left scrambling; not only to find ways to maintain sales but also to ensure their employees stay safe. And conversely, consumers need to find what works for them.

Times of change are always tough to navigate – but also present opportunities. Experts say some of the changes we are seeing in the business landscape will be temporary; that people will revert to their old habits once the crisis subsides. But others believe those habits are here to stay. It’s hard to know which is which, but it seems likely that one trend that’s going to come out of this stronger than ever is rising online sales.

Without a doubt, COVID-19 has provided major incentive to merchants of all stripes to beef up e-commerce operations, according to a leading packaging company serving the e-commerce sector. “We’re getting calls from a ton of new customers,” said the executive.

If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer and you’ve had to close your main street shop, now may be the time to build a website and launch an online presence. Canada Post can help. For tips on how to get started, check out this blog post.

The bottom line is that everything about the retail sector is in flux, from the way consumers make purchase decisions to how merchants source inventory (Hint: make sure you have alternative suppliers).

But the biggest obstacle for businesses right now is simply staying afloat as they wait for the economy to start growing again. That’s why the federal and provincial governments have unveiled a series of financial support methods for businesses and their employees. We’ve included some of the programs for your reference and where you can get more information, below.

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is a temporary paycheque replacement: A payment to individuals of up to $2,000 a month. The application process is easy; applicants must simply demonstrate they’ve lost income as a result of the crisis. Crucially, they don’t need to have lost a job. If you’re an employer forced to slim the payroll, the CERB is one way your workers can keep themselves afloat.
  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will cover 75 per cent of each employee’s wages, for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020. The maximum benefit is $847 per week. Successful applicants must demonstrate a significant drop in revenue as a result of the pandemic.
  • The Canada Emergency Business Account is a $40,000 loan to help cover operating costs during the pandemic. The funding, available through major banks and credit unions in cooperation with Export Development Canada, is interest-free for the first year. The first $10,000 doesn’t have to be repaid if borrowers can pay back the remaining $30,000 by December 31, 2022.
  • The EDC Loan Guarantee for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the BDC Co-Lending Program for Small and Medium Enterprises are similar programs aimed at providing term loans of up to $6.25 million for businesses that were healthy before COVID-19. There are restrictions on how the money can be used. The programs will be available at major banks and credit unions.
  • The Canada Revenue Agency is giving companies a five-month extension on corporate income taxes for the current year, now due by August 31, 2020.
  • Ontario is giving companies a five-month extension on provincially administered taxes, so between April 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020, late filers will not pay interest or any other penalty.
  • Quebec is providing emergency loans to small and medium businesses at favourable rates.
  • Alberta has deferred corporate income tax payments as much as five months, until August 31, 2020.

As the financial programs continue to evolve, be sure to check the Government of Canada website for the most up to date information.

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