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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

COVID-19 Business Update: January 12th, 2021

Information on government grants, resources, and programs, as well as policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here.
The Government of Canada has a support page with summaries of current programs and application portals.

Vital updates

  • At a press conference this afternoon, Premier Ford declared a state of emergency in the province of Ontario, to last no fewer than 28 days. Owing to the deteriorating COVID-19 situation in the province, a stay-at-home order will take effect on Thursday, January 14th, at 12:01 a.m. Everyone will be required to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.
    • Schools in some regions will remain closed longer, although Niagara schools are still scheduled to re-open on January 25th. Masks will be required for Grades 1-3 and must also be worn outdoors.
    • An “inspection blitz” of big-box stores will start in the coming days, the Premier warned, with businesses found in violation of regulations to be punished under the law.
    • Residential evictions will be suspended for the duration of the state of emergency.
    • Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people, with limited exceptions.
    • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
    • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.
    • Non-essential workers in offices must now work from home.
    • Health care services, including dental offices, physiotherapy and chiropractors remain open.
    • These restrictions are in addition to those already announced in the Provincewide Shutdown.
    • Under the declaration of a provincial emergency, the province will provide authority to all enforcement and provincial offences officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home-order, or those not wearing a mask or face covering indoors as well as retail operators and companies who do not enforce. Those who decide not to abide by orders will be subject to set fines and/or prosecution under both the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, (ROA) and EMCPA.
    • Businesses with questions about the restrictions and their obligations under them can call the Stop the Spread Business Information line at 1-888-444-3659.
  • At a morning briefing, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table revealed that the existing measures had failed to restrict mobility and contacts between people. Another 2,903 cases of COVID-19, including 246 in Niagara, and 41 more deaths of people with the illness were reported today. At the current rate of spread, the provincial healthcare system would be overwhelmed before vaccination has a chance to be effective.
  • The Government of Ontario has released further details of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. The Grant will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to help eligible small business owners during this challenging period. Small businesses required to close or significantly restrict services will be able to apply for this one-time grant. 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. New businesses established since April 2019 will also be eligible. Each eligible 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 assistance maintaining their inventory. Applications will open soon. Eligible small businesses include those that:
    • Are required to close or significantly restrict services due to the Provincewide Shutdown, which began at 12:01 a.m. on December 26;
    • Have fewer 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.
  • Today, the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Labour and Member of Parliament for Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas, on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario, announced that 111 businesses and organizations in the Hamilton and Niagara regions received a total of $16.4 million in combined RRRF funding, protecting more than 1,600 jobs in the area in 2020. Businesses and organizations in southern Ontario that have applied for other federal COVID-19 programs, but were unable to access sufficient relief, are encouraged to review RRRF eligibility requirements or contact FedDev Ontario for more information.
  • Last night, Fort Erie Town Council approved recommendations from staff to temporarily waive all business licence fees (PDF link), save and except short-term rentals, for 2021 to assist businesses during COVID-19. However, new businesses and businesses that require an annual licence renewal are still required to apply for a 2021 business licence from the Town of Fort Erie as in the past. It is estimated that waiving business licencing fees for 2021 will result in a business licencing revenue reduction of about $20,000. The Town plans to recoup this financial loss through money received in Phase 1 of the Government of Canada’s Safe Restart Agreement.
  • The gap between the adjusted price index and the official Consumer Price Index (CPI) widened in September, Statistics CAnada has revealed, corresponding with the increase in COVID-19 cases that marked a resurgence of the pandemic. Higher food prices, particularly for meat and vegetables, in October and November became more important in the adjusted price index, contributing to the gap between the adjusted price index and the official CPI. At the same time, transportation prices became less important in the adjusted price index, reflecting reduced air travel and low domestic and international demand for gasoline amid the tightening of public health restrictions. As a result of the food and transportation components, the adjusted price index remained higher than the official CPI in September, October and November. In November, the adjusted price index rose 1.4% on a year-over-year basis, while the official CPI increased 1.0%.
  • Total investment in building construction declined for a third consecutive month, edging down 0.1% to $15.3 billion in November. Slight decreases in both residential and non-residential construction led to minimal change overall. Gains in Ontario and Nova Scotia were offset in large part by declines in six provinces. Non-residential investment was mostly unchanged in November, remaining at $4.4 billion. Slight declines in six provinces were offset by small gains in Ontario (+0.4% to $1.8 billion) and British Columbia (+1.0% to $665 million).  As lockdowns and working from home continued across many parts of the country, reduced investment in office buildings, hotels and restaurants led to an overall reduction in commercial building investment (-0.5%). Commercial building investment was the lone component of non-residential construction to decline in November and remained below pre-COVID-19 levels (-13.5% compared with March 2020).
  • The Canada-U.S. border will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least Feb. 21. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair today announced the latest extension to international travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Canada-U.S. agreement bars entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons.

Reading recommendations

Inflation is probably running a little hotter than the official estimate suggests, but not by so much that the Bank of Canada will be forced to rethink its plan to leave the benchmark interest rate unchanged until 2023. Statistics Canada on Jan. 12reported that its “adjusted price index” increased 1.4 per cent in November from a year earlier, compared with a one per cent gain in the official Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the same period.

In an effort to address the ongoing wage gap in federally regulated employers, new measures that went into effect on Jan. 1, will provide a more fulsome look at exactly how much those employees are getting paid. As a part of amendments made to the Employment Equity Act, businesses with more than 100 employees will be mandated to provide more detailed salary data that will be made public beginning in 2022, says a Toronto employment lawyer.

Niagara COVID status tracker

Niagara’s most up-to-date COVID statistics, measured against the targets for the various stages of the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, are presented below. This does not predict government policy, but is offered to give you an idea of where Niagara is situated and how likely a relaxation (or further restrictions) may be. These data are drawn daily from Niagara Region. The Grey-Lockdown level does not have its own metrics, but is triggered when the COVID-specific measurements in a Red-Control region have continued to deteriorate.

Note that the Provincewide Shutdown is not the same as the Grey-Lockdown level listed in the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, which has been suspended for the duration of the shutdown. Additional restrictions for businesses apply during the Shutdown. Businesses should not use the Response Framework as a guide during this time, but should instead refer to the Shutdown guidelines.

 Incidence ratePercent positivityRt
Target: Green<10<0.5%<1
Target: Yellow10-24.90.5-1.2%1
Target: Orange25-39.91.3-2.4%1-1.1
Target: Red≥40≥2.5%≥1.2
Niagara Current252.17.6%0.8

Definitions:

  • Weekly Incidence Rate: the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week
  • Percent Positivity: the number of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed
  • Rt: the reproductive rate, or the number of people infected by each case of the virus

 If you are showing symptoms, contact your health care provider, call the Public Health Info-Line at 905-688-8248, or chat to Public Health online. For testing, call 905-378-4647 ext. 42819 (4-CV19) for information on test centres in Niagara and to book an appointment.

Previous updates can be accessed here.

The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.

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