Halton Moving into Lockdown, Effective December 26

As Halton Region Public Health’s data continues to trend in a negative direction, despite the additional restrictions implemented under the Red Category in the Provincial COVID-19 Response Framework, Halton has been moved into the Grey or Lockdown category.

These changes will come into effect on Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 12:01 a.m

It is important to be familiar with what the Lockdown category means for the operation of your business. The Provincial Government has recently updated their COVID-19 Response Framework to include specific provisions and guidelines for businesses, organizations and services permitted to operate under Lockdown Restrictions in addition to safe operation requirements.

Click here to review the Provincial COVID-19 Response Framework and understand what restrictions are contained within Lockdown.

Download the PDF and scroll down to Appendix A for the full list of businesses, organizations and services permitted to operate in Lockdown and the document itself contains specific rules of safe operation for each.

It is also important to ensure that you have a COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan prepared and implemented in case of inspection. Under the Provincial Framework, businesses are required to have a Workplace Safety Plan in place to ensure that public health protocols are being enforced. Municipal by-law and Ministry of Labour officials are conducting proactive enforcement of these protocols and it is essential to have your Workplace Safety Plan available in the event of an inspection.

Generally, any work safe plan will detail screening procedures, support for self-isolating employees, ensuring that physical distancing is in effect and enforced, masking protocols, disinfecting protocols, etc.

The provincial government has resources available to you and your business to assist with the development of a COVID-19 workplace safety plan. Click here to learn more.

Funding Supports Available to Businesses  

Coming soon: Ontario Small Business Support Grant 

Small businesses required to close or restrict services under the Provincewide Shutdown will be able to apply for this one-time grant. Each small business will be able to use the support in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business. For example, some businesses will need support paying employee wages or rent, while others will need support maintaining their inventory.

Eligible small businesses include those that:

  • Are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the Provincewide Shutdown effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020;
  • Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and
  • Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

Starting at $10,000 for all eligible businesses, the grant will provide businesses with dollar for dollar funding to a maximum of $20,000 to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the Provincewide Shutdown. The business must demonstrate they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20 per cent when comparing monthly revenue in April 2019 and April 2020. This time period was selected because it reflects the impact of the public health measures in spring 2020, and as such provides a representation of the possible impact of these latest measures on small businesses.

Essential businesses that are allowed to remain open will not be eligible for this grant.

More information about the Ontario Small Business Support Grant is available here. Further details, including how to apply, will be announced in January 2021.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) Increase

The government has extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until June 2021, as committed to in the Speech from the Throne. As Canadians and Canadian businesses face the resurgence of the virus, this extension will give workers and employers certainty and stability over the coming months.

In October, the government announced enhancements to the program, such as allowing the subsidy rates to remain at their current level so that the maximum subsidy rate of 65 per cent of eligible wages would remain until December 19, 2020. In addition, the wage subsidy is now more flexible and responsive, allowing employers to access the maximum subsidy rate based on a single month’s revenue decline instead of having to demonstrate three months’ decline, giving employers support that better reflects their current or evolving needs.

Given the ferocity of the second wave and its expected economic impact, the government is proposing to increase the maximum subsidy rate to 75 per cent for the period beginning December 20, 2020 and to extend this rate until March 13, 2021, to provide greater certainty to employers. The government will continue to monitor health and economic conditions to determine details for subsequent periods.

Click here to apply.

Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS)

To provide greater certainty to businesses and other organizations, the government is proposing to extend the current subsidy rates of the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy for an additional three periods. This means a base subsidy rate of up to 65 per cent will be available on eligible expenses until March 13, 2021. This would ensure that businesses and other organizations continue to have the support they need through the second wave of the pandemic and the winter.

Since launching on November 23, applicants have been able to use the rent subsidy towards rent payable. The government will soon introduce legislation to formalize this as an eligible expense.

Click here to apply.

Lockdown Support

Under the new Lockdown Support program, organizations that are subject to a lockdown and must shut their doors or significantly restrict their activities under a public health order are eligible for an additional 25 per cent top-up, in addition to the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy base subsidy of up to 65 per cent, until December 19, 2020.

This means hard-hit businesses can receive up to 90 per cent support for rent.

The government is proposing to extend the rate of 25 per cent for the Lockdown Support for an additional three periods, until March 13, 2021.

Applications for the Lockdown Support are through the same process as the CERS benefit. Learn more.

Canada Emergency Business Account Increase (CEBA)

The government recently extended the availability of the CEBA program to small businesses that have not been operating from a commercial banking account. These small businesses are now able to apply for the CEBA, provided that they have successfully opened a new commercial account and fully meet the eligibility requirements of the program.

Loans are provided through financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, in cooperation with Export Development Canada. A new total of up to $60K in loans are available, with up to $20K being entirely forgivable. Previously, the maximum loan available was for $20K with only $10K being forgivable. This is an increase in $20K of extra funding, with an additional $10K being forgivable.

The deadline to apply for a CEBA loan has been extended to March 31, 2021.

Click here to learn more.

Regional Relief and Recovery Fund Increase (RRRF)

To help support those businesses unable to access other federal pandemic support programs, the government announced the $962-million Regional Relief and Recovery Fund on April 17, providing significant funding through Canada’s Regional Development Agencies. The government increased funding on October 2, bringing total support to more than $1.5 billion.

To better ensure the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund can continue to support small businesses unable to access other federal pandemic support programs, including replicating newly announced Canada Emergency Business Account loan limit increases, the government is proposing a top-up of up to $500 million, on a cash basis, to Regional Development Agencies and the Community Futures Network of Canada, bringing total funding to over $2.0 billion in this fund.

Recognizing the importance of the RRF in supporting local tourism businesses, the government will earmark a minimum of 25 per cent of all the Fund’s resources to support local tourism businesses, providing more than $500M in program support through June 2021.

Click here to see what additional funding your business may be eligible for.

Support for Highly Affected Sectors 

As outlined in the Speech from the Throne, some businesses, particularly those in highly-affected sectors like tourism and hospitality, have struggled to access sufficient financing. To help address this challenge and bridge these businesses through the crisis, the government proposes to work with financial institutions in the near term to offer loans on more generous terms to the hardest hit businesses, to help ensure they remain viable and in place to drive future economic growth.

The government will work with financial institutions in the near term to create the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) – a new program for the hardest hit businesses, including those in sectors, like tourism and hospitality, hotels, arts and entertainment. This stream will offer 100 percent government-guaranteed financing for heavily impacted businesses, and provide low-interest loans of up to $1 million over extended terms, up to ten years. Rates will be lower than those offered in BCAP and beneath typical market rates for hard hit sectors.

The government will provide details on the HASCAP soon.