Updated May 15, 2020

FAQ About Canadian Businesses and Workers Affected by COVID-19 

  • Where can I find an overview of federal government supports for businesses?

    The government has launched a web page to serve as a one-stop-shop for Canadian businesses.

    Here is the link to the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

  • How is the government supporting businesses that have to reduce operations due to COVID-19 impacts?

    The Work-Sharing Program has been temporarily enhanced i.e., doubling the length of time that employers and workers are eligible for the program from 38 to 76 weeks, and streamlining processes so that help can be accessed as soon as possible.

    The following changes have been made to the program;

    • Reducing the requirement that businesses have been operating for 2 years to 1 year;
    • Employers can apply for the full 72 weeks at one time;
    • Removing the requirement for a recovery plan;
    • Streamlining the application form;
    • Decreasing the processing time to 10 days;
    • Introducing secondary point of contact.

    The government has also introduced the Emergency Wage Subsidy that will apply at a rate of 75% of the first $58,700 normally earned by employees – representing a benefit of up to $847 per week. The program will cover a 24-week period (March 15 to August 29, 2020). More information, including how to apply, is available from the Canada Revenue Agency, here.

    Eligibility criteria:

    • Employers who suffer a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March and 30% in April and/or May, when compared to the same month in 2019. Alternatively, they would qualify if they can demonstrate a drop in gross revenues of 30%+ in these months against January and February of this year.
    • Employers of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy, with the exception of public sector entities.
    • Non-profit organizations and registered charities similarly affected by a loss of revenue would be eligible. They will have the flexibility on whether or not to  include government funding in their revenue calculations.

    If a business qualifies for one of the eligibility periods it would automatically qualify for the next one and wouldn’t need to re-apply.

    An employer’s eligibility will be based entirely on the salary or wages actually paid to employees. All employers would be expected (or at least make best efforts) to top up salaries to 100% of the maximum wages covered.

    Eligible employers would also receive reimbursements of 100% of their contributions to the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), Employment Insurance (EI), Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) and Quebec Parental Insurance Program premiums for the periods for which they qualify.

    Eligible employers would be able to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy by applying through a Canada Revenue Agency online portal. More details regarding how to apply for the program are to follow.

    Those organizations that do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy may continue to qualify for the previously announced wage subsidy of 10 per cent of remuneration paid from March 18 to before June 20, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. 

    Businesses qualifying for the Emergency Wage Subsidy can use it in combination with the Temporary Wage Subsidy.

  • Are the federal support programs accessible to charities and not-for-profits?


  • What federal support is available for workers who are laid off or have to leave work to care for a family member with COVID-19; have symptoms and go into self-isolation; test positive and/or have to care for children due to government-imposed school/daycare closures?

    The following income assistance measures have been established to alleviate financial impacts on workers:

    • The one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits (for those eligible for EI benefits) has been waived.
    • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides $500 per week for a maximum of 16 weeks, to people who are off work and without an income from employment – or who have a reduced monthly income of $1,000 or less – as a result of COVID-19. People whose EI benefits have recently ended may also apply for the CERB as well as seasonal workers who are unable to take up their work this spring due to COVID-19.
    • The Child Care Benefit will be temporarily increased).
    • Those receiving the GST Credit will be eligible for an increase of up to $330/adult and $150/child.

    For federally-regulated employers/employees, a new COVID–19 leave has been temporarily introduced into the Canada Labour Code . It provides an employee who is unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19 a job-protected leave of absence for up to 16 weeks. The COVID-19 leave is in place until October 1, 2020.

  • What are the details of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and how can I apply for it?

    The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides $500 per week for a maximum of 16 weeks, to people who are off work and without an income from employment – or who have a reduced monthly income of $1,000 or less – as a result of COVID-19. (Note: Pension income is not considered employment income. Income earned outside of Canada is eligible.) People whose EI benefits have recently ended may also apply for the CERB as well as seasonal workers who are unable to take up their work this spring due to COVID-19.

    The CERB is available to employees, contract workers and the self-employed. The government began accepting applications on April 6. Those who had applied for EI and meet the criteria for the CERB will be automatically transferred to this program.

    You can apply online here.

  • Can employers top up their employees’ EI benefits?

    Yes. Click here for information on the federal Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Program.

  • What support is available for workers that don’t qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits?

    Workers not eligible for EI and the self-employed will be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which will provide $2,000 a month for four months, for people who are off work and without an income as a result of  COVID-19.

  • What if I’m not sure which program(s) I am eligible for or believe that I could benefit from a combination of them?

    Don’t wait for absolute clarity. Apply for the program(s) for which you believe you qualify as soon as possible.

  • My business has been ordered shut down by government because it is deemed non-essential. Should I consider e-commerce?

    Absolutely. The closure of non-essential businesses by government is to reduce the risk of people infecting each other with the COVID-19 virus. If you can keep your business even partially up and running using ecommerce, you should pursue it.

  • Is there any flexibility in self-isolation requirements for workers coming into Canada providing essential business services (air cargo, oil/gas production)?

    Workers essential to the movement of goods and people are exempt from self-isolation requirements when entering Canada.

  • What federal support is there for businesses requiring emergency access to capital due to COVID-19?

    A Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) has been set up and will be delivered to clients of the  Business Development  Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC). The Crown Corporations will underwrite loans provided through this program by private sector financial institutions and credit unions.

    The Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Loan and Guarantee will enable up to $40 billion in lending, supported through Export Development Canada and Business Development Bank, for guaranteed loans when small businesses go to their financial institutions to help weather the impacts of COVID-19. This is intended for small and medium-sized companies that require greater help to meet their operational cash flow requirements.

    The Canada Emergency Business Account will provide up to $25 billion to eligible financial institutions so they can provide interest-free loans to small businesses. These loans – guaranteed and funded by the Government of Canada – will ensure that small businesses have access to up to $40,000, at 0% interest for the first year, so they can pay for rent and other important costs over the next number of months. Businesses with 2019 payrolls of $20,000 to $1.5 million are now eligible.

    Farm Credit Canada will also receive $5 billion in additional capitalization to assist farmers.  All eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advance Payments Program loan due on or before April 30 will receive a Stay of Default, allowing them an additional six months to repay the loan.

    The Superintendent of Financial Institutions has made an additional $300 billion in lending capacity available to major banks.

    The Bank of Canada has reduced its prime lending rate to 0.75 %.

    The Treasury Board Secretariat has directed all government departments to ensure early or prompt payment of invoices to federal government suppliers.

    The federal government is also allocating an additional:

    • $675 million to the regional development agencies;
    • $287 million to the Communities Future Network;
    • $20.1 million to Futurpreneur Canada;
    • $250 million for the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP); and
    • $500 million to Heritage Canada.

    This funding is designed to reach people who may not be able to receive funding through other programs and financial lenders.

  • What about assistance for businesses to pay their rent?

    Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program: the Government of Canada has reached an agreement in principle with all provinces and territories to provide rent relief for small businesses. The program will see tenants receive a 75% reduction in their rent payments for April, May, and June.

    The program is for small businesses, non-profits, and charities:

    • Paying less than $50,000 per month in rent, and
    • Have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70% drop versus pre-COVID-19 revenues.

    The program will provide forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners to cover 50% of the eligible rent payments. The loans will be forgiven if the property owner agrees to reduce the eligible small business tenants’ rent by at least 75% and agrees not to evict the tenant.

    The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is administering the program on behalf of the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Details on how to apply will be available soon.

    More information is available here.

  • What sector-specific help has been announced for the energy sector?

    The federal government has announced $1.7 billion for the cleanup of orphaned oil and gas wells, which includes:

    • Up to $1 billion to the Government of Alberta to support the province’s work to clean up inactive oil and gas wells across the province;
    • Up to $400 million to the Government of Saskatchewan to support work to clean up orphan and inactive oil and gas wells across the province;
    • Up to $120 million to the Government of British Columbia to support work to clean up orphan and inactive oil and gas wells across the province; and
    • $200 million to the Alberta Orphan Wells Association (OWA) to support its work to clean up orphan oil and gas wells and well sites across Alberta. The OWA will fully repay this amount.

    The federal government has also announced $750 million for Natural Resources Canada over two years, starting in 2020-21, to create a new repayable loan program to work with conventional and offshore oil and gas companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Of this amount, $75 million will be allocated to investments in the offshore sector. A portion of these loans will be convertible to grants.

    The federal government is also continuing to work with EDC and BDC to make additional credit solutions available.

  • What supports are available for agriculture, farmers and food processing employers?

    Agriculture Sector Support

    The Government of Canada has announced $252 million to support farmers, food businesses, and food processors that provide essential services to Canadians every day by ensuring a safe and reliable food supply. A proposal for $200 million in additional borrowing capacity for the sector has also been announced. More information is available here.

    Funding for Temporary Foreign Worker Quarantine Costs

    Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is providing $50 million to help farmers, fish harvesters and all food production and processing employers put in place the measures necessary to follow the mandatory 14-day isolation period required of all workers arriving from abroad.

    Support of $1,500 for each temporary foreign worker will be provided to employers, or those working with TFWs, to ensure requirements are fully met. The funding is conditional on employers not being found in violation of the mandatory 14-day isolation protocols or any other public health order.

    This program will be available as long as the Quarantine Act is in force and the isolation protocol is followed.

    Application instructions are not yet available. More information is available here.

  • What supports are available for the fish and seafood processing sector?

    On April 25, the Government of Canada announced the creation of a $62.5 million fund to help businesses:

    • access short-term financing to pay for maintenance and inventory costs;
    • add storage capacity for unsold product;
    • comply with new health and safety measures for workers;
    • support new manufacturing/automated technologies to improve productivity and quality of finished seafood products; and,
    • adapt products to respond to changing requirements and new market demands.

    The Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund will be delivered through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, and Western Economic Diversification Canada. Details on when and how to apply have not been released.

    More information is available here.

  • What supports are available for students and recent graduates?

    The government has created a series of programs directed toward students and recent graduates, including the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG).

    • The CESB would provide $1,250 per month for eligible students or $2,000 per month for eligible students with dependents or disabilities. The benefit would be available from May to August 2020. Students can apply for the CESB here.
    • The CSSG is for students who choose to do national service and volunteer in their communities. The grant will provide up to $5,000 for their education in the fall.

    The government will also expand existing federal employment, skills development, and youth programming, including:

    • Double the Canada Student Grants for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21. The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents would also be doubled.
    • Broaden eligibility for student financial assistance by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions in 2020-21.
    • Enhance the Canada Student Loans Program by raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350.
    • Increase existing distinctions-based support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation students pursuing post-secondary education by providing an additional $75.2 million in 2020-21.
    • Extend expiring federal graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships, and supplement existing federal research grants, to support students and post-doctoral fellows, by providing $291.6 million to the federal granting councils. In addition, the government intends to enhance work opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows through the National Research Council of Canada.

    More information is available here.

  • What supports are available for the academic and research community?

    The government has announced its intention to provide $450 million in funding to Canada’s academic and research community. This funding will:

    • Provide wage supports to universities and health research institutes, so they can retain research staff who are funded from industry or philanthropic sources and are unable to access some of the government’s existing COVID-19 support measures. This would apply even if their work has been temporarily suspended. The government will provide up to 75 per cent per individual, with a maximum of $847 per week.
    • Support universities and health research institutes to maintain essential research-related activities during the crisis, and to ramp back up to full research operations once physical distancing measures are lifted. This will cover up to 75 per cent of total eligible costs, and will support activities such as the safe storage of dangerous substances, and restarting data sets that were interrupted during the pandemic.

    More information is available here.

  • How do the enhancements to the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program work?

    In response to the COVID-19 situation, the following flexibilities have been introduced to respond to the needs of employers and youth:

    • Wage subsidies
    • Part-time employment
    • Employment period extended
    • Allowed changes to project and job activities

    More information on the flexibilities is available here.

    Eligibility criteria:

    • Eligible employers include: not-for-profit organizations, the public-sector, and private sector organizations with 50 or fewer full-time employees.
    • In addition to fitting the criteria for employer eligibility, organizations must meet the program eligibility criteria in order to be funded. This includes demonstrating that measures are in place to ensure youth awareness of health and safety practices in the workplace, that measures are in place to ensure work environments are free of harassment and discrimination and describing supervision and mentoring plans.
    • Employers participating in CSJ must offer placements to youth between 15 and 30 years of age that are Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or refugees who are legally entitled to work in Canada.
    • The full list of eligibility criteria is available here.

    Getting listed on the ‘I Want to Help’ platform:

    • The Call for Applications for CSJ closed at the end of February 2020 and employers will soon be notified if they are approved for funding.
    • All CSJ jobs which are approved will be posted on the Government of Canada’s Job Bank website so that interested youth may apply.
    • Temporary changes for CSJ 2020 include additional flexibility to support the hiring of youth in critical services by providing an opportunity for MPs to submit names of employers providing essential services, who had not applied in the call for application.
    • MPs had until April 24 to provide lists of additional employers to the Department.

    More information on the CSJ program is available here.

  • What about delaying federal tax remittances?

    Businesses, including self-employed individuals, may defer all Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) payments until June, as well as customs duties owed for imports.

  • How is business insurance coverage triggered?

    While this will depend upon a business’ insurance policy, this guidance from the Insurance Bureau of Canada may of assistance.

  • Where can I get up-to-date information on the situation with the Canada-U.S. border?

    The Canada Border Service Agency’s Border Information Service (BIS) is now accessible 24/7. For the most up-to-date information related to cross border travel and business, please call 1-800-461-9999.

  • Where can I obtain answers to questions regarding the status of international trade during this crisis?

  • What had been designated as essential business operations by the federal government?

    On April 3, Public Safety  Minister Bill Blair released a guidance on what services and businesses would be considered essential in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada’s 10 critical infrastructure sectors will be energy and utilities, information and communication technologies, finance, health, food, water, transportation, safety, government and manufacturing.

  • What is the maximum recommended size of gatherings?

    The federal government has recommended that all gatherings be cancelled or postponed.

  • Will there be tariff relief for essential medical supplies and equipment that need to be imported?

    On March 16, CBSA Customs Notice 20-08 announced tariff relief for medical equipment imported by government authorities.

  • Is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) extending tax filing and payment deadlines?

    Yes. Please see this link on the CRA’s website for details.

  • What resources are available from the Public Health Agency of Canada?

    Canadians may subscribe for Public Health Updates at this link.

  • What are Canada’s Regional Economic Development Agencies doing to help business during the COVID-19 pandemic?

    Click here to find information about the response from Canada’s Regional Economic Development Agencies.

  • How can businesses that have the capacity to produce medical supplies and equipment to fight COVID-19 make themselves and their capabilities known to the government?

    Click here to learn more.

    More than 5,000 companies have contacted the federal government, and it has signed contracts with several to produce medical equipment and suppliers including test kits.

  • What are the travel exemptions for Temporary Foreign Workers?

    On March 20, 2020 the government announced it will allow an exemption for Temporary Foreign workers who are seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers and caregivers. It also has provisions for international students and those recently approved for permanent residency.

    Travel exemptions went into effect on March 25, 2020. Click here for the full details.

    The federal Ministers of Health and Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion issued a letter to employers on April 1, 2020 emphasizing an emergency order under the Quarantine Act regarding fines for TFWs who contravene, and the associated obligations of employers.

    On April 22, Service Canada sent a second letter regarding the obligations of employers, inspection powers, and penalties for non-compliance. More information is available here.

  • What about the movement of people providing other essential services across the Canada-U.S. border?

    Exemptions to self-isolation for fourteen (14) days will be provided to healthy workers who provide essential services. This includes workers in the trade and transportation sector who are important for the movement of goods and people across the border, such as truck drivers and crew on any aircraft, train or marine vessel crossing the border. It also includes healthy people who have to cross the border to go to work, including health care providers and critical infrastructure workers.

    More information is available here.

  • What is the Emergencies Act and what are its powers?

    The Emergencies Act was passed in 1988 as a replacement for the War Measures Act. It has never been used.

    The Act gives powers to the Prime Minister to respond to four different types of emergency scenarios: public welfare (natural disasters, disease), public order (civil unrest), international emergencies and war emergencies.

    The Act grants Cabinet the ability to “take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times” to cope with an emergency and the resulting fallout during an “urgent and critical situation.”

    It gives Cabinet unprecedented powers to assume jurisdiction from the provinces in areas like health and commerce.

    The Emergencies Act could allow for the creation of travel passes to curtail movement. The Act also grants Cabinet powers to evacuate people and remove “personal property from any specific area,” acquire property, direct any person or any class of person to “render essential services,” regulate “distribution and availability of essential goods, e.g., medical supplies, services and resources,” authorize “emergency payments,” establish shelters and hospitals and impose criminal sanctions.

    The Act allows the federal government to essentially nationalize parts of the economy wherever it thinks it’s necessary as Cabinet can “control, the restoration and maintenance of public utilities and services” to ensure the well-being of Canadians.  Many of these powers are already within the purview of the provinces.

    If the federal government were to declare its intention to trigger the Act, Parliament must be summoned to “sit within seven days after the declaration is issued.”

    (Credit:  CBC)

“Businesses in Canada have never been more challenged than they are today as a result of COVID-19, and the demand for information on programs and initiatives to assist in helping them plan for their future is critical. The Canadian Business Resilience Network is an invaluable asset for businesses to ensure they have the tools needed to make informed decisions that will help them rebuild.” 

Chuck Davidson, President and CEO, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce


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