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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

How businesses can access government funds to offset the Bill 148 wage increase

Bill 148 is here, $14/hr minimum wage is now a reality, and the first paycheques at the new rate have gone out. This has been the GNCC’s top advocacy priority since it was announced, and we have done an enormous amount of work on behalf of Niagara’s business community, but there are some things you can do right now as a business-owner to help offset the costs of this increase. The GNCC is dedicated to your success, and we want to make sure that everyone is aware of and utilizing the offsets and savings available to them right now.

The Government of Ontario has announced that, to encourage youth hiring, employers will be rewarded with a $1,000 payment when they hire an employee aged 15-29 and a second $1,000 payment when that employee reaches their six-month anniversary.

To be eligible, the employee must work a minimum of 20 hours per week and cannot be a full-time student. Employers hiring between January 1st and March 31st will receive $1,000 at the three-month anniversary (so that payments occur in fiscal year 2018-2019) and $1,000 at the six-month mark; employees hired after March 31st will render their employer eligible for $1,000 upon hiring, followed by $1,000 on the six-month anniversary. The employer must have fewer than 100 employees, although companies that grow over 100 after the hiring will still be eligible for funding for the hires made before the cut-off, and can receive a maximum of $50,000.

The incentives will be distributed through Employment Ontario providers. If you are not already working with an Employment Ontario provider, contact Linking Niagara at the GNCC who can put you in touch. The program is only accessible by employers registered with an Employment Ontario provider. There are also many other programs available to compensate employers for their hiring and training incentives, such as hiring support including recruiting, pre-screening, interviewing and free job fairs, wage incentive programs, or tax credits. Linking Niagara can help you obtain these funds.

Applications are now underway for the Canada Summer Jobs Grant, which provides wage subsidies for students who would not be eligible under the Ontario program. You can apply online; for assistance, local MP offices are running workshops and can help guide you through the process.

There are also existing funds, grants, and programs available at both the provincial and federal level. There are existing portals at Invest in Ontario and the Canada Business Network where you can find funding for your business. These sites are a little hard to navigate, but the federal 2017 budget also promised a one-stop shop for accessing these programs, and next week, the government will launch that site. The GNCC has had a sneak preview, and it is easy to use and offers connections to funds and programs you may not have known you were eligible for. Watch the GNCC’s website and social media next week, as we will be sharing that link once it goes live.

Through our work with Linking Niagara, we know that many businesses in Niagara are not aware or not taking advantage of all the programs and funding available to them, and this is more important than ever to address.

We are also very aware that the offsets that the government has announced do not compensate business for the increased costs of Bill 148. We are committed to working on obtaining further concessions for business in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber network across the province. Although it is highly unlikely that the increase will be rolled back, for political reasons, there may be room for a more business-friendly approach to legislation concerning vacation, paid emergency leave, unionization, and other measures increasing costs to business, and we are going to focus on that.

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