Government Resources for businesses during COVID-19

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Government Resources for businesses during COVID-19

Updated Oct. 14, 2020


Government of Canada COVID-19 support for businesses main page:

The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program

On Oct. 9, 2020, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, announced the Government of Canada’s intention to introduce new, targeted supports to help businesses experiencing a drop in revenue. The government plans to introduce legislation to provide support that would help these businesses safely get through the second wave of the virus and the winter, cover costs so they can continue to serve their communities, and be positioned for a strong recovery, including:

  • The new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, which would provide simple and easy-to-access rent and mortgage support until June 2021 for qualifying organizations affected by COVID-19. The rent subsidy would be provided directly to tenantswhile also providing support to property owners. The new rent subsidy would support businesses, charities, and non-profits that have suffered a revenue drop, by subsidizing a percentage of their expenses, on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible expenses until December 19, 2020. Organizations would be able to make claims retroactively for the period that began September 27 and ends October 24, 2020.
  • top-up Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy of 25 per cent for organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order issued by a qualifying public health authority, in addition to the 65 per cent subsidy. This follows a commitment in the Speech from the Throne to provide direct financial support to businesses temporarily shut down as a result of a local public health decision.

To read the full release from the Government of Canada, please click here. We will keep our members updated as this legislation moves forward. 

PREVIOUS: On April 24, 2020 Prime Minister Trudeau announced the details of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. 

Full news release 

This program will lower rent by 75 per cent for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19.

The program will provide forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners to cover 50% of three monthly rent payments that are payable by eligible small business tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during April, May, and June.

The loans will be forgiven if the mortgaged property owner agrees to reduce the small business tenants’ rent by at least 75% under a rent forgiveness agreement, which will include a term not to evict the tenant while the agreement is in place. The small business tenant would cover the remainder, up to 25% of the rent.

Impacted small business tenants are businesses paying less than $50,000 per month in rent and who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70% drop in pre-COVID revenues. This support will also be available to non-profit and charitable organizations.

The federal government has confirmed that this is available to all landlords, regardless of whether or not they currently have a mortgage. If you don’t have a mortgage, you can still access the loan. Mechanically it’s similar to taking out a new mortgage.
And for those who don’t have mortgages because the building/land cost is using a different debt mechanism (e.g. large commercial/industrial building tenants), those landlords will also be able to access the CECRA.

Applications will be accepted through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website beginning on May 25. While the portal opens on Monday, Ontario property owners are being asked to register on Tuesdays.

Full information can be found on the CMHC site. CLICK HERE

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) Update

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The CERB has ended, but you can apply for a period retroactively. The CRA is continuing to accept and process retroactive applications for period 7 (August 30 to September 26, 2020) through the CRA’s My Account or automated toll-free phone line.

New Recovery Benefits

The new Recovery Benefits are available between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.

The CRA will open applications for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit on October 5 and for the Canada Recovery Benefit on October 12.

Click here for information on the new recovery benefits.

Avoiding layoffs and rehiring employees:

Work sharing program:

The Federal Governement is extending the maximum duration of the Work-Sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks. The Work-Sharing program is offered to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours because of developments beyond the control of their employers.

To find out if you’re eligible, please read the application guide (link below). To be eligible your business must be a private or publicly-held company, have been in year-round business for at least two year, demonstrate a recent business decrease of approximately 10%, demonstrate that the work shortage is temporary and beyond your control, and submit and implement a recovery plan designed to return the Work-Sharing unit(s) to normal working hours by the end of the Work-Sharing agreement. 

For your employees to be eligible they must be core employees, be eligible to receive EI benefits, and agree to a reduction of their normal working hours in order to share available work. A minimum of two employees is required for a work-sharing agreement.

Main Info Page:

Application guide:

To apply:

The CEWS program: providing small business with wage subsidies: 

UPDATE: Eligible employers who had any drop in revenue can now qualify for the wage subsidy, starting with the claim periods that began July 5. Changes include:

  • the subsidy rate varies, depending on how much your revenue dropped
  • if your revenue drop was less than 30% you can still qualify, and keep getting the subsidy as employees return to work and your revenue recovers
  • employers who were hardest hit over a period of three months get a higher amount
  • employees who were unpaid for 14 or more days can now be included in your calculation
  • use the current period’s revenue drop or the previous period’s, whichever works in your favour
    • for periods 5 and 6, if your revenue dropped at least 30%, your subsidy rate will be at least 75%
  • even if your revenue has not dropped for the claim period, you can still qualify if your average revenue over the previous three months dropped more than 50%
  • the maximum base subsidy rate is 60% in claim periods 5 and 6
  • the maximum base subsidy rate will begin to decline in claim period 7, gradually reducing to 20% in period 9

Full details here:

How to Apply: 
Eligible employers will be able to apply for the CEWS through the Canada Revenue Agency’s My Business Account portal. 

The 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for 
Employers (The Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy is a separate program): The 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

You are an eligible employer if you are an individual, a partnership, non-profit, registered charity, or a Canadian controlled private corporation and have an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, 2020, and pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration to an eligible employee. The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration you pay from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer.

How will I receive the subsidy?
You do not need to apply for the subsidy.
You will continue deducting income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums from salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration paid to your employees, as you currently do.
The subsidy is calculated when you remit these amounts to the CRA.
Once you have calculated your subsidy, you can reduce your current payroll remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy. 

More information

Temporary changes to the Canada Summer jobs program

Temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program will allow employers to:
receive an increased wage subsidy, so that private and public sector employers can also receive up to 100 per cent of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee; extend the end date for employment to February 28, 2021; adapt their projects and job activities; hire staff on a part-time basis.
More information:

Access to credit: The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) provides 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. This program has been implemented by banks and credit unions in collaboration with Export Development Canada.

Business owners can apply for support from CEBA through their banks and credit unions.

CEBA has been extended to December 31, 2020. If you have already applied for CEBA and have questions, please contact the CEBA Call Centre at 1-888-324-4201. Please note, in order to provider a quicker response time and improve the overall customer experience you will be asked to leave a call back number. An agent will return your call between Monday and Friday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm EST and can address the following types of questions:

  • What is the status of my application?
  • Why was my application declined?
  • Why was my submitted document rejected?

The CEBA Call Centre is experiencing significant call volumes. As a result, a return call may take more than 7 business days.

For full information on CEBA, please click here

More time to pay income taxes

The Federal Government is allowing all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18 and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. 

No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 

More info

Deferral of Sales Tax Remittance and Customs Duty Payments

The Federal Government  will allow businesses, including self-employed individuals, to defer until June 30, 2020 payments of the Goods and Services Tax / Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST), as well as customs duties owing on their imports. 

The deferral will apply to GST/HST remittances for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods for monthly filers; the January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 reporting period for quarterly filers; and for annual filers, the amounts collected and owing for their previous fiscal year and instalments of GST/HST in respect of the filer’s current fiscal year. 

For GST and customs duty payments for imported goods, deferral will include amounts owing for March, April and May. 

These amounts were normally due to be submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canada Border Services Agency as early as the end of this month.

More information:


Province of Ontario COVID-19 main page:

Interest and Penalty Relief for Businesses – Relief is automatic

Updated Aug. 12, 2020 – Extending the interest and penalty relief period

Any outstanding returns and taxes that were due between April 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020 (during the relief period) are now due by October 1, 2020. Beginning October 2, 2020, regular filling and payment activities will resume, and regular penalties and interest apply.

We extended the end of the relief period by one month from August 31, 2020 to October 1, 2020.

PREVIOUSLY – On March 25, 2020, the Ontario government announced a five-month relief period for Ontario businesses who are unable to file or remit select provincial taxes on time, due to the special circumstances caused by the coronavirus (COVID‑19) in Ontario.

The following provincial taxes are included in the relief period:
         •        Employer Health Tax 
         •        Tobacco Tax 
         •        Fuel Tax
         •        Gas Tax 
         •        Beer, Wine & Spirits Tax
         •        Mining Tax
         •        Insurance Premium Tax
         •        International Fuel Tax Agreement
         •        Retail Sales Tax on Insurance Contracts and Benefit Plans
         •        Race Tracks Tax

More info:

Employer Health Tax

UPDATE: The Ontario government has extended the interest and penalty relief period by one month to October 1, 2020. The Ministry of Finance is resuming its regular audit interactions with Ontario businesses and representatives

On March 25, 2020, the Ontario government announced relief measures to help support Ontario businesses including increasing the Employer Health Tax exemption for 2020 from $490,000 to $1 million and a five‑month relief period for Ontario businesses who are unable to file or remit their provincial taxes on time due to the special circumstances caused by the coronavirus (COVID‑19) in Ontario 

More info:

Postponing Planned Property Tax Reassessment

The next property valuation to be completed by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) in 2020 for the 2021 year has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the 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.

More info:

Electrical bills

Making electricity bills more affordable for eligible residential, farm and small business consumers through a $1.5 billion increase in electricity cost relief compared to the 2019 Budget. In addition, the Province is also setting electricity prices for time-of-use customers at the lowest rate, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day for 45 days, to support ratepayers in their increased daytime electricity usage as they respond to the COVID‑19 outbreak, addressing concerns about time-of-use metering

WSIB payment deferrals

Providing up to $1.9 billion in financial relief by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) allowing employers to defer payments for up to six months

City of Toronto

City of Toronto COVID-19 Economic Support & Resources for Businesses main page:

BusinessTO Support Centre

The City of Toronto recently announced a new service, called the BusinessTO Support Centre, to assist businesses in completing applications for government assistance programs. 

The BusinessTO Support Centre provides one-on-one virtual support to help businesses complete applications for Government of Canada COVID-19 funding programs and get general business advice.

Extend Grace Periods for Property Taxes & Utility Bills

UPDATE: Property Tax Grace Period Ended

The 60-day grace period for property tax and utility bill payments and late penalties ended on May 15. View the billing dates for the rest of 2020.

PREVIOUS POST: The City will be suspending all pending automated withdrawals that have been scheduled for all City residents and businesses within the next 60-day period but not yet withdrawn.

Customers will be advised in advance of any rescheduling of revised withdrawal due dates and amounts following the 60-day grace period.

Customers who pay their taxes through their mortgage should contact their mortgage company or financial institution to understand how this grace period will affect their mortgage amount and/or mortgage payment schedule.

For all property owners who have submitted post-dated cheques for upcoming property tax instalments, all post-dated cheques will be held and not cashed until 60 days after the original instalment due date – for example, post-dated cheques intended for the April 1 instalment will be cashed on June 1, and post-dated cheques for the May 1 instalment will be cashed on July 2, 2020.  Any other post-dated cheques received before May 1, 2020 will be held for a period of 60 days from the date of the cheque before being cashed.

The City is providing a grace period for payments and payment penalties for 60 days, starting March 16, 2020.

This grace period applies to all customers. At this time we are unable to process individual requests to have pre-authorized payments or post-dated cheques processed as scheduled.

Toronto Hydro

UPDATED: Effective June 1, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced the COVID-19 Recovery Rate for customers who pay Time-of-Use (TOU) electricity rates. Residential and small business customers paying TOU rates will be charged a fixed rate of 12.8¢/kWh for all electricity usage, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The government has extended this rate relief to TOU customers until October 31, 2020.

For help with billing concerns and payment options, please contact Toronto Hydro’s Customer Care team directly at 416-542-8000.

PREVIOUS: As of March 24, 2020, households, farms and small businesses that pay time-of-use electricity rates will be charged the off-peak rate of 10.1¢ per kWh, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition, Toronto Hydro  has extended its current suspension of electricity disconnections for low-volume small business customers until July 31, 2020. They’re encouraging business customers to contact their Customer Care team directly at 416-542-8000 for help with billing concerns and payment options.

24-hour Retail Delivery Exemption

Effective immediately, and until further notice, all retail businesses are exempt from the City of Toronto Noise Bylaw to facilitate after-hour deliveries.

The City’s Noise Bylaw includes the ability to provide an exemption in response to extraordinary circumstances affecting the immediate health, safety or welfare of the community. This exemption will ensure retailers can receive deliveries 24 hours of a day, seven days a week to ensure essential goods remain in stock.

Banking Solutions

Effective immediately, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as:
         •        pay disruption due to COVID-19;
         •        childcare disruption due to school closures; or
         •        those facing illness from COVID-19.

This support will include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.

Ward 11 BIA Call Q&A with Councillor Mike Layton

Questions and answers from the April 23, 2020 call with Councillor Mike Layton:

Q1: Double property tax payments on June 1st. Some businesses will still not be operating and won’t have funds. What else can the City do with the Province on property tax deferrals? Ask for tax relief for businesses instead of deferral.

A: Like many businesses, the City is in a tough financial position because money is not coming in. We are not able to draw money in without property taxes. City is losing 65 million a week, but is happy to absorb this to help. However, legally, the City cannot go into debt.

Ask has been made federally to address this gap, but it is not realistic that further deferrals are possible and cancellations would not be possible.

This may change if the other levels of government provide operational funding to the City.

Q2: Can BIAs assist with a forgivable rent relief during closures due to Covid-19 using members monthly contributions? Suggestion that funds can come from BIA funds that have been allocated to events/street festivals that cannot take place this year.

Q3: Can excess BIA funds be used as a grant to help businesses that need financial aid? Can funds for future projects (such as cost-share projects), including allocated Section 37, be used to help businesses? Note, this would be a grant, equally divided between businesses. It would not be a loan.

A2&3: No, the Municipal Code does not allow BIAs to provide direct funds to individual businesses. BIAs may not be using all their levy funds. If there are access reserves a better option will be to reduce the levy in 2021.

Q4: Commission too high on some delivery services. What, if anything, can the City do?

A: City does not have the authority to limit commission charges. However, the City has reached out to different clients to see if they can further reduce fees for restaurants. There was a suggestion that people should contact the restaurant directly as opposed to going through apps (some of which can take upwards of 40%). 

There is nothing stopping individual BIAs from helping organize this as well.

Q5: Building permits delays are causing businesses to pay overhead on 2 spaces.

A: Building permits are going to move slower, but there is nothing we can do to speed up the process. Once the City restarts we will need to do more to clear the backlog and get this moving. There are provincial restrictions that will also need to be lifted before this can get moving again.

Q6: Preparing Businesses to Re-Open – What measures will businesses need to have in place? Depending on the industry, what new “public health” measures should businesses start thinking about that would potentially need to be adhered to for the stamp of approval: plexi glass partitions at all cash desks? More “sneeze guards”? Hand sanitizer at all exits/entrances? Capacity level modifications? A checklist of these preventative measures should be released sooner than later so that businesses know what additional resources and measures are needed beforehand. 

A: The City currently has a list of recommendations for commercial properties and businesses. Public Health is starting to put its mind toward a more specific checklist for businesses to help with re-opening, but all focus remains on current public health measures and flattening the curve. Councillor Layton will work to make sure there is notice provided to businesses when businesses can re-open. We will also flag that there may need to be differing recommendations based on the size of the business. Economic Development at the City also has a team dedicated to recovery and what needs to be done to bring people back into their neighbourhoods once businesses are able to re-open. A request was made that multi-language documents be provided and will be helpful.

Q7: Can the BIA Office or TABIA recommend any translation services or consider translating key documents into more languages? English is not the first language for many and complex information is being released by various levels of government.

A: The City is utilizing its contacts to assist with translation services for its documents. These services can be offered to BIAs as well.

Q8: StreetART and Beautification Projects – What are StreetART Toronto best practices for hoarding, and just general projects? Kadence (a third party firm) in the past week or so did 4 murals throughout the City and it drew a lot of positive attention.

A: StreetART grants have not been responsive, but they are working remotely which may be slowing response time. They are working to continue with the program and are still operating.

Q9: City Services to Businesses – (ie garbage collection) are there rebates or credits applied to businesses that have had to put a pause on this since they are not operating? When these services need to be re-started, will there be a quick turnaround? Feedback received is that it can take a couple of weeks to get services restarted. A restaurant cannot hold on to weeks’ worth of garbage at a time. 

A: There are no rebates to utilities at this point in time, but the idea will be shared with the Economic Development and Recovery team.

Q10: Landscaping BIA planters – essential services do not allow for landscaping, companies are reluctant to assist. Can the City/TABIA advocate to the Province that we need these services to be allowed to continue? They help enhance the beautification, perception of safety to some extent, and help prevent “broken window syndrome”. 

Q11: Similar to above, additional third party garbage and street cleaning services need clarification as to whether the companies could carry on.

A10&11: The City is seeking clarification from City Legal about whether or not landscaping on City property is able to continue. Once this is known, it will be shared with the BIAs.

The City is continuing with street cleaning and litter pick-up at its normal operations. If you notice an area with an excess of garbage collecting, please alert 311 (by phone) to register a service request, or contact my office. Laneways also require attention and this will be shared with staff.

Q12: Can businesses apply for rebates to patio licence permit fees?

A: The City will look into patio licence permit fees and whether there is a possibility for a rebate.

Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA)


The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of having an online presence to sell goods and services. This is tool is amplified that much more with the curbside pick up approach to the first stage of opening Ontario’s retail businesses.
Leveraging Toronto’s technology community, the City of Toronto and Digital Main Street have brought together a range of partners to build and optimize online stores for Toronto’s independent businesses and artists at no-cost.
Thanks to volunteer developers, marketing and business students, and the support of corporate partners, Toronto’s independent businesses and artists – whether they are along a main street, in an industrial park, or a studio – can access ShopHERE to get their online store built and launched with hands-on support throughout the entire process in just a matter of days.

What do businesses and artists get as part of ShopHERE?

  • Their choice of a template online Shopify store customized with their information, branding, logo, etc.
  • Hands-on assistance setting up and launching their online store.
  • Training and support covering digital marketing, shipping and operating their online store.
  • Access to free tools and various credits (from over 10 partners) to help support the launch of their online stores.

Participant Requirements:
The ShopHERE program is open to any businesses or artist that meets the following requirements:

  • Pays commercial property taxes in the City of Toronto
  • Have fewer than 10 employees, or fewer than 25 if they are a café, restaurant, or bar
  • Not be a corporate chain or franchise
  • OR must be an artist located within the City of Toronto.

 To sign up for this exciting program and receive a free online store you can fill out the application form here:
If you have any questions, reach out to Lana at Digital Main Street at

Commission-free online ordering with Ritual ONE

Mobile food ordering company Ritual recently announced Ritual ONE, an online tool that lets local restaurants and food services such as grocers, butchers and bakeries take online orders through their existing websites for either contactless pickup or delivery. In partnership with the City’s ShopHERE initiative, Ritual is waiving the monthly subscription fee for all Toronto restaurants that sign up prior to June 1.


The package of economic support announced to date for businesses in response to COVID-19 leaves a critical gap for many small businesses. Without assistance with fixed costs, many small businesses could become insolvent as a result of forced shutdowns. A rent abatement strategy is needed immediately. A significant percentage of small businesses were unable to make April rent and that surges as emergency shutdowns extend into May. TABIA is advocating for a rent abatement strategy called The Small Business Emergency Rent Abatement and has submitted a proposal to the Prime Minister and all members of Parliament. The strategy advanced by TABIA is a sustainable one that gives business tenants and property owners equal relief. We will share more information on this proposal as it comes available. 

The City of Toronto Commercial Façade Improvement Program

The Application Deadline for the Commercial Facade Improvement Program has been extended to Thursday, July 9, 2020, 4:30 pm.

The extension will allow applicants more time to secure quotes for facade work.  We will continue review applications on a first-come, first serve basis.

More information:

To apply:


TABIA has been collaborating with a Toronto-based technology firm and a number of concerned local citizens to launch a tool which would allow our/your small business owners to receive donations and help them alleviate overwhelming expenses, such as rent and payroll, during these tough and unexpected times amidst COVID-19. 

The tool is called

In less than 5 minutes, your business can create a business profile and securely connect their bank account. Once their account is created, they will be able to share their page, via email and social media, to collect financial contributions from the community. Contributions can be as low as $1 and as high as the generosity of an individual. ALL contributions are deposited directly to the businesses bank account securely within 48 hours or less

Totum Life Science, a Toronto staple, is an example of a small business already on the platform, which has been Bata tested over the last week. Check out their Distantly business page at If you’d like to connect with Distantly users Stacy and Tim Irvine, co-owners of Totum Life Science, please contact

There is absolutely no cost to the BIA’s or the businesses that join the platform. It is an opportunity for your businesses to leverage their communities and audiences to raise funds during these extremely challenging times.

Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario

As part of its broader package of measures to support Ontarians and businesses that have been significantly impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19, the Government has amended Regulation 719 under the Liquor Licence Act (LLA) to temporarily allow liquor sales licensees (i.e., licensed bars and restaurants) to sell beer, wine and spirits as part of a food order for takeout or delivery.  These changes are effective immediately, and last until December 31, 2020.

Full details here:

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)

 The CFIB has a small business help centre which includes live chat availability:

 The Board of Trade:

The Toronto Board of Trade also has a help site with live chat assistance: