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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

COVID-19 Business Update: March 24th, 2020, 2pm

New Developments and Information

The GNCC is committed to bringing timely information and updates on the business impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s vital updates:

  • The House of Commons has convened to vote on a bill allocating up to $82-billion in financial supports for Canada. The opposition has indicated it will not support the bill as-is.
  • An additional $5-billion in funds has been released to Farm Credit Canada to assist agri-food businesses.
  • The Government of Ontario is appealing to businesses who can help supply emergency products and solutions.
  • The Government of Ontario is holding electricity costs at the low-peak usage rate of 10.1 cents per kilowatt hour, 24 hours a day.

Of primary importance in Ontario is the mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses, beginning at midnight tonight.

  • The closure order will last for 14 days, with a possible extension depending on the status of the pandemic at that time.
  • A list of businesses permitted to stay open can be found here.
  • No plans to compensate businesses have yet been announced, but they have not been ruled out.
  • Businesses that can transition to a remote-working model are required to do so from midnight on March 24th.
  • This order includes non-profit entities.
  • Non-essential businesses may continue to operate online, by mail or phone, or by delivery.
  • Self-employed individuals or workplaces where only one person is present should be able to continue operating as long as they are closed to the public and are not directly interacting with other people.

Local governments have announced responses to the COVID-19 crisis. The current policies are:

  • The City of Port Colborne has approved exemptions for penalty and interest charges until April 30 for tax, water, and wastewater payments.
  • The City of St. Catharines will not charge late fees or interest penalties on water bills, tax payments, and accounts receivables until June 30. The City has also suspended parking fees for on-street parking and municipal lots.
  • The City of Niagara Falls has waived penalty charges for current year property taxes, water bills, and accounts receivable (billed in 2020) until June 30.
  • The City of Thorold has waived penalties and NSF fees on water and wastewater bills, and current year taxes until June 30, 2020.
  • The City of Welland has waived penalties for late payments on water and wastewater bills and on taxes until May 30, 2020.
  • The Town of Lincoln has waived penalties for late payments on water and wastewater bills, accounts receivable, and on taxes until June 30, 2020.

It is important that everyone practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Remain at home unless absolutely necessary. Minimize contact with other people. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Avoid touching the face. Maintain a 2-meter distance from others if you are required to be out in public. If you have recently traveled outside the country, self-isolate for 14 days. This means that you must not leave your home under any circumstances. Have supplies delivered and left on your porch.

Failure to adhere to these guidelines places lives at risk, prolongs the crisis, and increases the likelihood that governments in Ontario and Canada will be forced to resort to more drastic measures, such as mandatory curfews and lockdowns under the Emergencies Act. Other countries have already had to take these steps.

Stay safe and be vigilant. The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have

Previously-posted information

News and updates from previous bulletins are included here for your convenience. Note that some of this information may be out-of-date. In case of conflict, the latest update (above) should be taken as correct.

  • The Canadian-U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel. Trade and key supplies will continue to flow, as will people crossing for essential work.
  • Temporary foreign workers are permitted to enter Canada, as will international students and workers on visas, but are requested to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.
  • The Government of Canada is appealing to businesses that can supply equipment, supplies, or services to help with their COVID-19 response, or which can re-tool to supply them. If your business falls into these categories, please contact celine.caira@canada.ca.
  • The Niagara Regional Business Licensing Office is closed to the public. Services are being provided Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. by phone and email at 905-980-6000 ext. 6380 and licensing@niagararegion.ca.

The GNCC is lobbying for additional measures to help businesses through the COVID-19 crisis. Some of these are:

  • Delivery and take-out beverage alcohol be permitted for restaurants and food-service establishments.
  • Rent relief for individuals and businesses, allowing them to continue to rent their premises while still providing revenue to lessors.
  • Property tax deferrals and late fee waivers to be offered by all Niagara municipal governments.
  • More financial assistance for self-employed and non-EI-eligible Canadians who are not covered by existing relief programs.

We are working on other initiatives as well, and will have more information when details on these policies have been settled.

The Government of Canada announced a relief package for individuals and businesses. These measures will:

  • Allow all businesses to defer the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020, until after August 31, 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. This measure will result in businesses having more money available during this period.
  • Increase the credit available to small, medium, and large Canadian businesses. As announced on March 13, a new Business Credit Availability Program will provide more than $10 billion of additional support to businesses experiencing cash flow challenges through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. The Government is ready to provide more capital through these financial Crown corporations.
  • Further expand Export Development Canada’s ability to provide support to domestic businesses. 
  • Provide flexibility on the Canada Account limit, to allow the Government to provide additional support to Canadian businesses, when deemed to be in the national interest, to deal with exceptional circumstances.
  • Augment credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector through Farm Credit Canada.
  • Launch an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program to purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). As announced on March 16, this will provide stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders and support continued lending to Canadian businesses and consumers. CMHC stands ready to further support liquidity and the stability of the financial markets through its mortgage funding programs as necessary. The Government will enable these measures by raising CMHC’s legislative limits to guarantee securities and insure mortgages by $150 billion each.
  • Provide eligible small businesses a 10 per cent wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Employers benefiting from this measure would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as not-for-profit organizations and charities. This will help employers keep people on their payroll and help Canadians keep their jobs.

Accessing credit can be done through the BDC’s website. Farms and agri-food businesses can access credit through Farm Credit Canada

The package also contained support for workers that would:

  • Provide additional assistance to families with children by temporarily boosting Canada Child Benefit payments. This measure would deliver almost $2 billion in extra support.
  • Introduce an Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks to provide income support to workers who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave. This measure could provide up to $10 billion to Canadians, and includes:
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are sick, quarantined, or who have been directed to self-isolate but do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent or other dependents who are sick, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
  • EI-eligible and non EI-eligible working parents who must stay home without pay because of children who are sick or who need additional care because of school closures.
  • Introduce an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the Canada Revenue Agency to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
  • Provide additional assistance to individuals and families with low and modest incomes with a special top-up payment under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit. This measure would inject $5.5 billion in the economy.
  • Waive the mandatory one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits, for a minimum of six months, for workers in imposed quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate, as announced on March 11.

Your employees can access these programs and get more information from Service Canada