COVID-19 – Government Response


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 June 17, 2020 and will be updated frequently. Please visit this page regularly to keep up to date.


Financial Support Measures For Businesses

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (Federal): Eligible employers can receive a temporary wage subsidy retroactive to March 15, 2020 and to extend to June 6, 2020, equal to 75% of an employee’s first $58,700 in wages, as well as a 100% refund for certain employer paid contributions to Employer Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan, and the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan. The subsidy is available to non-publicly funded employers, including corporations, partnerships, individuals, non-profit organizations, and charities of any size. In order to be eligible, an employer must have experienced a decrease in revenue due to COVID-19 in the month of March, April or May. Each month is a separate measurement period for which subsidies are available. The Prime Minister announced on April 8, 2020 that businesses must show a revenue decline of 15% or more for the month of March to qualify for the subsidy. For the months of April and May, it appears that employers must continue to show the previously announced decrease in revenue of 30% or more. The decline will be determined by comparing March, April, or May, 2020 business revenues to the same month in 2019, or alternatively, to an average of the revenue earned in January and February, 2020.

In recognition of the time between when revenue is earned and when it is paid, revenue may be measured either on the basis of accrual accounting (as it is earned) or cash accounting (as it is received). Special rules will also be provided to address issues for corporate groups, non-arm’s length entities, and joint ventures. Charities and non-profit organizations can choose to include or exclude government funding when calculating their loss of revenue.

Employers will be able to apply via a Canada Revenue Agency portal. There is no overall limit on the subsidy amount that an eligible employer may claim. Status: In effect.

Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers (Federal): Employers who do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy can take advantage of this program which covers 10% of wages paid from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to a maximum of $1,375 per eligible employee and $25,000 per employer. Status: In effect.

Canada Summer Jobs Program Subsidy (Federal): The federal government will now cover 100% of the costs for employers hiring students under CSJ program. The timeframe for job placements will be extended until February, 2021 to accommodate positions that are starting later than usual. Participating employers will also have the option of hiring students part-time. Status: In effect.

Canada Emergency Business Account (Federal): 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.

Update: As of June 19, 2020, applications will be accepted so that more small businesses can access CEBA. This means that owner-operated small businesses that had previously been ineligible for the program due to their lack of payroll, sole proprietors receiving business income directly, as well as family-owned corporations remunerating in the form of dividends rather than payroll will become eligible this week. Status: In effect.

Loan Guarantees for SMEs (Federal): 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 (Federal): 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.

$350 Million Community Program (Federal): Canadian community groups and national charities that assist seniors, the homeless, and other made more vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive financial support for the various services and activities they provide. Community based organizations can now apply for funding. For further details on how to apply, you can visit the website of (a) United Way Centraide Canada; (b) Canadian Red Cross; or (c) Community Foundations of Website Status: In effect.

Commercial Rent Assistance (Federal): This program will reduce rent by 75% for eligible small and medium-sized businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. Commercial tenants are eligible if they pay less than $50,000 in monthly rent and have temporarily ceased operations or experienced a reduction of at least 70% in pre-COVID-19 revenues. You can apply on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website. 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.
  • workers who earn up to $1,000 per month.
  • seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19.
  • workers who exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

The CERB applies to wage earners, contract workers, seasonal workers, and self-employed individuals.

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

Status: In effect. Applicants can apply through the CRA’s website.

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: GST credit to be paid April 9, 2020; CCB credit to be paid as part of the May, 2020 CCB payment.

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. You can apply through the BC Government website. Status: In effect.

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 (BC): 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. You can apply for the rent supplement through the BC Housing website. Status: In effect.

Student Financial Aid (Federal): The Federal Government announced $9 billion in financial aid for students struggling as a result of COVID-19. Eligible postsecondary students will receive $1,250 a month from May until August. Eligible students include: (a) Students currently attending postsecondary school; (b) Students planning to start postsecondary school in September 2020; (c) College and University students who graduated in December 2019; and (d) College and University students who have jobs but are earning less than $1,000 per month. Status: In effect.

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 (Federal): 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

  • COVID-19 Relief Fund allows eligible residential customers who have experienced job loss to receive three months of free credit on their BC Hydro bill based on their average consumption. The fund also allows eligible small businesses that needed to close due to COVID-19 to have up to three months of electricity charges waived. Status: Residential application form to open the week of April 6. Business application to open the week of April 13. Eligible customers can apply any time until June 30, 2020 to receive the credit.
  • Major industries such as pulp mills and mines have the option to defer 50% of their bill payments for 3 months. Prepayment of the deferred amounts will be according to a prescribed payment plans with the first payment due September 1, 2020.
  • Residential and commercial customers that are not eligible for our COVID-19 Relief Fund can defer bill payments and arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty with the BC Hydro COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program. Status: Application form to open the week of April 13.
  • BC Hydro is also providing a Customer Crisis Fund grant for up to $600.
  • Electricity rates decreased by 1% for all customers.
  • BC Hydro is ceasing disconnections for non-payment.


  • 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. On May 21, 2020 the federal government announced $75 million in new funding for Indigenous organizations providing services to Indigenous peoples in urban centres and off reserve. Status: More 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 (BC): 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 once 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.