COVID-19 – Government Response

Introduction

All levels of government in Canada are responding swiftly to uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing measures to support individuals and businesses across the country.

The following is a list of government initiatives and related announcements. The list is current through March 30, 2020 and will be updated frequently. Please visit this page regularly to keep up to date.

Contents: 

 

Financial Support Measures For Businesses

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (Federal): Eligible employers can receive a temporary wage subsidy retroactive to March 15, 2020, equal to 75% of an employee’s first $58,700 in wages. The subsidy is available to non-profit organizations, charities, and companies of any size; however, they must demonstrate a reduction of at least 30% in revenue due to COVID-19. More details are anticipated in the coming days. Status: Details forthcoming.

Canada Emergency Business Account: Interest-free, government-guaranteed loans of up to $40,000 will be available to eligible small businesses and non-profits. If repaid by December 31, 2022, up to $10,000 of the loan will be forgiven. The program will be administered by certain financial institutions, in conjunction with Export Development Canada. In order to qualify, the small businesses or non-profit must demonstrate that they paid between $50,000 and $1 million in total payroll in 2019. Status: Additional details forthcoming.

Loan Guarantees for SMEs: Export Development Canada is guaranteeing new operating credit and cash flow term loans that financial institutions extend to small and medium-sized enterprises, in amounts of up to $6.25 million. Status: In effect, businesses should contact their financial institutions for more details.

Co-Lending Program for SMEs: The Business Development Bank of Canada is offering co-lending with certain financial institutions to small and medium-sized enterprises who need to meet their operational cash flow requirements. Eligible businesses can obtain incremental credit amounts of up to $6.25 million. Status: In effect, businesses should contact their financial institutions for more details.

Business Credit Availability Program (Federal): The Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada are providing more than $10 billion in support targeted towards small and medium sized businesses. The relief measures provide working capital loans of up to $2 million with flexible terms and repayment postponement for up to 6 months for qualifying businesses. Rates have been reduced on certain new eligible loans and existing Business Development Bank of Canada clients are able to take advantage of payment deferrals for certain loans. Status: In effect.

Farm Credit Canada (Federal): Deferrals of interest and principal payments and access to an additional secured line of credit of up to $500,000 is available for farmers and other agricultural borrowers through Farm Credit Canada. Status: In effect.

Industry Mobilization Plan (Federal): Canadian manufacturers and businesses can receive support from the government of Canada if they are able and willing to re-tool or scale up their equipment and facilities to manufacture needed medical equipment such as gloves, masks, surgical gowns, and sanitizer. Status: In effect.

Financial Support Measures for Individuals

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (Federal): The previously announced federal Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit have been combined into a single Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The CERB is a taxable benefit that will provide $2,000 per month to eligible individuals for four months and will be available from March 15 and October 3, 2020 to all workers (including employees, contract workers and self- employed workers) who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether EI-eligible or not, including workers who:

  • have lost their income due to COVID-19;
  • are sick with COVID-19 or quarantined;
  • are taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • are staying home without pay to care for children who are home sick with COVID-19 or due to school/daycare closures; or
  • are employed but not receiving income through their employment due to COVID-19.

The CERB will apply to wage earners, contract workers, and self-employed individuals.

More information on the CERB is available in our recent article.

Status: Online application portal expected to launch April 6, 2020, with approved applicants receiving money by mid-April.

Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits (Federal): The Government of Canada has waived the one-week waiting period typically required when applying for EI sickness benefits for those in imposed quarantine who are claiming such benefits. The requirement to provide a medical certificate has also been waived. Status: In effect.

Goods and Services Tax Credit and Canada Child Benefit Top-Ups(Federal): Top-ups for both the GST Credit and CCB programs will be paid out as special one-time payments. Recipients under the GST Credit program will receive around $400 per individual or $600 per couple. Recipients under the CCB program will receive an additional $300 per child. Status: Both top-ups will be paid out by early May, 2020.

Registered Retirement Income Funds(Federal): The required minimum withdrawal from RRIFs has been reduced by 25% for 2020. Status: In effect.

Work Sharing Program(Federal): Work sharing allows employees to split available working hours amongst each other during times of reduced work availability. The maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements under the program has been increased to 76 weeks across Canada for businesses affected by COVID-19, as well as for businesses in the forestry, steel, and aluminum sectors. For more EKB discussion on the Work Sharing Program, see our recent article. Status: In effect.

Emergency Benefit for Workers (BC): The BC provincial government will provide a one-time $1,000 tax-free payment to British Columbia residents who receive federal EI or support through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Status: Expected to be available May, 2020.

Climate Action Tax Credit Top-up (BC): Payments to eligible individuals and families under the B.C. Climate Action Tax Credit will be topped-up to provide eligible families of four with up to $564 and eligible individuals with up to $218. Status: Available July, 2020.

Rent Support, Freeze, and Eviction Ban: The BC provincial government will provide up to $500 per month for four months to renters who are struggling to maintain housing during the pandemic. Additionally, evictions for all but extreme safety-related cases are banned, as are rent increases. Status: In effect, but rental rebate payments may not begin to arrive until later in April, 2020.

Tax and Loan Relief

Deferred Income Tax Payments – Businesses (Federal): The deadline for businesses to pay income tax amounts that become owing or due after March 18th, 2020 and before September 1, 2020 has been deferred to August 31, 2020. This relief applies to tax balances and installments under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accrue during this period. Status: In effect.

GST/HST Remittance Deferral (Federal): Monthly, quarterly, and annual filers of GST/HST will have until June 30, 2020 to remit the following:

  • Monthly filers – amounts collected for the February, March, and April 2020 reporting periods;
  • Quarterly filers – amounts collected for the January 1, 2020-March 31, 2020 reporting period; and
  • Annual filers (with GST/HST return or instalments due in March, April or May 2020) – amounts collected and owing for previous fiscal year and instalments of GST/HST for current fiscal year.

Status: In effect.

Deferral of Customs Duty and Sales Tax for Importers: Payment deadlines for statements of accounts for March, April, and May, 2020 are deferred to June 30, 2020. Status: In effect.

Deferred Tax Return Filing and Payments – Individuals other than trusts (Federal): The due date for the filing of 2019 tax returns for individuals other than trusts has been deferred until June 1, 2020. However, the Canada Revenue Agency recommends that those expecting to receive funds under the GST Credit or Canada Child Benefit programs do not delay their filing so that their entitlements to such programs for 2020-20201 are properly determined. The deadline to pay any balance due for individual 2019 income tax and benefit returns has been extended to August 31, 2020. Status: In effect.

Deferred Tax Return Filing and Payments – Trusts (Federal): The due date for the filing of 2019 tax returns for trust whose taxation year ended on December 31, 2019 has been deferred until May 1, 2020. Trusts that have an income tax balance due date or an income tax balance payment due date before August 31, 2020 will have such due date effectively extended to August 31, 2020. Status: In effect.

Deferred Return Filing – Trusts, Partnerships, NR4 Information Returns (Federal): Return filing deadlines are extended to May 1, 2020. Status: In effect.

Post-Assessment Audits (Federal): Canada Revenue Agency will not contact any small or medium-sized businesses to initiate any post-assessment GST/HST or Income Tax Audits for the next four weeks (until April 15th, 2020). Audit interaction with taxpayers and representatives is temporarily suspended. Status: In effect.

Deferred Administrative Income Tax Actions (Federal): Unless otherwise noted, administrative income tax actions required on the part of taxpayers such as returns, elections, designations, and information requests, and which are due after March 18, 2020, can be deferred to June 1, 2020. Note that payroll deduction payments and all related activities are excluded from this deferral. Status: In effect.

Tax Liaison Officers (Federal): The Tax Liaison Officer service will be available by phone (rather than standard in-person appointments) to help small businesses understand their tax obligations in light of COVID-19. Status: You can request a phone call with a liaison officer by clicking “Request a Liaison Officer service” on the Liaison Officer service page.

Deferred Tax Payments and Filings (BC): Many provincial tax filing and payment deadlines have been deferred until September 30, 2020, including the following:

  • Businesses with a payroll of over $500,000 may defer their employer health tax payments until September 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under such threshold are already exempt.
  • Payments for PST, municipal and regional district tax, carbon tax, motor fuel tax, and tobacco tax have been deferred to September 30, 2020.
  • Scheduled increases to carbon tax rate and application of PST to e-commerce transactions and sweetened/carbonated drinks is delayed.
  • Status: In effect.

School Property Tax Reduction (BC): The School Property Tax will be halved for the 2020 tax year, providing $500 million in relief for businesses that own their property and for tenants on triple-net leases. Status: In effect.

Relief from Utilities and Monthly Bills (BC)

  • BC Hydro customers can defer bill payments and arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty. BC Hydro is also providing a Customer Crisis Fund grant for up to $600.
  • ICBC installment payment customers may defer payment for up to 90 days without penalty if they are facing financial hardships due to COVID-19.
  • Status: In effect.

Student Loan Moratorium (Federal and Provincial): A six-month interest-free moratorium is being placed on the repayment of both federal and provincial student loans. Status: Federal – In effect; Provincial – As of March 30, 2020.

Mortgage and Loan Relief (Banks): Canada’s six largest financial institutions (Toronto Dominion Bank, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada, Toronto Dominion Canada Trust, and Royal Bank of Canada) have pledged to offer personal and small business banking customers flexible relief from payment obligations. This includes an up to six month payment deferral for mortgages and relief on other credit products, with such deferrals being assessed on a case-by-case basis. In Vancouver, Vancity Credit Union has announced a similar program which defers mortgage and other loan payments for up to six months. Status: In effect.

Other Measures and Announcements

Border Closures(Federal and Provincial) : The following border closures are in effect.

  • Canada-US border closed to non-essential travel.
  • Northwest Territories and Yukon have closed to all but non-residents, with some exceptions for those involved in the supply chain and for “essential services”.

Market Liquidity Support (Federal): The government of Canada has implemented several systemic changes to provide additional market liquidity to the Canadian economy. These include the Bank of Canada lowering the benchmark interest rate to 0.25%; affording more flexibility to the Minister of Finance in determining the limit of the Canada Account; purchasing $50 billion in insured mortgage pools through the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program; lowering of the Domestic Stability Buffer requirement for domestic systemically important bans; purchase by the Bank of Canada of Bankers’ Acceptances via the Bankers’ Acceptance Purchase Facility; and the recently announced Commercial Paper Purchase Program and government securities purchases. Status: In effect.

Indigenous Community Support Fund (Federal): $305 million has been set aside to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Nation communities. Status: Details forthcoming.

Women’s’ Shelters and Sexual Assault Center Support (Federal): Up to $50 million will be provided to women’s shelters and sexual assault centers in order to prevent and manage outbreaks in their facilities. Status: Details forthcoming.

Prohibition Against Firing and Job-Protected Leave: The Employment Standards Act (BC) has been amended to prevent the firing of workers who are following provincial health orders related to COVID-19 and to allow affected workers to take unpaid job-protected leave. The ability to take job-protected leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020. Status: In effect.

Temporary Medical Services Plan Coverage (BC): Individuals in British Columbia who were previously enrolled in MSP as a deemed resident whose coverage has since expired, may be provided temporary coverage. Status: In effect.

BC Housing Eviction Ban and Rent Adjustment (BC): BC Housing is requesting that landlords not serve eviction notices on tenants of BC Housing subsidized/affordable housing. BC Housing is also offering a streamlined rent reduction application for applicable individuals who have lost income as a result of COVID-19 (more information via link above). Status: In effect.

Rent Bank Network Funding (BC): $10 million has been provided to Vancity Credit Union to administer funding and ensure the sustainability of the existing rent bank network. Status: In effect.

Critical Services Funding(BC): The Province is providing $1.7 billion to support critical service providers such as social services, housing and shelter programs, the First Nations Health Authority, and licensed child care providers. Status: In effect.

Long-Term Economic Support (BC): The Province will provide an additional $1.5 billion in funding to support economic stimulus one the pandemic has passed. Status: To be determined.

EKB Can Help

The nature and scope of government support measures will continue to respond to this rapidly evolving situation. EKB’s team is remotely operating at full capacity and is ready and willing to assist you in making the most of these measures and in protecting your legal and business interests during these challenging times.

Read EKB’s most recent Updates about COVID-19, BC business, and the law.