COVID-19 Resources for Businesses
Updated: May 26, 2020
May 26, 2020
- In an effort to maintain Downtown St. Catharines as the urban centre of Niagara, we are asking that businesses take this short survey to help with documenting the impact that COVID-19 is having on Downtown. Take the survey here.
- The City of St. Catharines is offering 15-minutes of free parking for curbside pickup in Downtown St. Catharines (and soon in other parts of the city). New signs have been posted in areas where free 15-minute parking is available. This initiative is part of the City's ongoing support of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Applications are open for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance. If you’re a commercial property owner and have small business tenants struggling to pay rent, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance. Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance will help provide relief for small businesses experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 by offering unsecured, forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to:
- reduce the rent owed by their impacted small business tenants
- meet operating expenses on commercial properties Property owners must offer a minimum of a 75 per cent rent reduction for the months of April, May and June 2020.
All eligible commercial property owners are encouraged to participate in this program.
To manage volume, a staggered approach to is being applied to the application process:
- Ontario commercial property owners with up to 10 small business tenants struggling to pay rent can apply on Tuesday, May 26
- All other Ontario property owners can apply Wednesday, May 27 and Friday, May 29
- The Canadian Chamber of Commerce announced a new program, the Canadian Business Resilience Network Small Business Relief Fund, to provide small Canadian businesses from coast to coast to coast with $10,000 grants to help their recovery efforts during these unprecedented times. The CCC is partnering with Salesforce to offer grants to 62 Canadian small businesses. Applications open June 1. The successful applicants will be announced in late June to early July 2020, with the funds being transferred to the successful applicants shortly thereafter.
May 23, 2020
- Earlier this week Shopify announced a number of new products and updates, ranging from business accounts and purchase cards, to retail to shipping, to help merchants navigate the new normal and plan for the future. Among the announcements was a partnering with Facebook, called Facebook Shops, to help businesses create branded storefronts to help deliver unique shopping experiences and enable consumers to browse and purchase without ever leaving the apps.
May 22, 2020
- Recognizing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses such as the restaurants in the City’s downtown core, St. Catharines City Council voted to waive all fees associated with patios operated seasonally in outdoor areas adjacent to businesses.
The decision will allow businesses with seasonal patios to be prepared once the Ontario government allows them to reopen. The process to apply for a patio remains the same. Read more here.
- Venture Niagara has launched the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to support local economy. Businesses in Niagara unable to access existing federal relief measures can now apply for funding under this new initiative. In order to provide targeted assistance to the small towns and communities we serve, Venture
Niagara will focus on assisting “main street” businesses, such as retail shops, restaurants, corner stores, and businesses of strategic importance to our communities, with loans up to $40,000.
- The Ontario Government announced it is investing in Ontario's first Virtual Action Centre, an online counselling and training portal, to support laid off and unemployed hospitality workers. The province is investing nearly $2 million to open a Virtual Action Centre in partnership with UNITE HERE Local 75. This virtual job training resource will provide up to 7,000 unemployed workers in the hospitality sector with access to a wide range of services and supports online and over the phone, including:
- Stress management and mental health resources through video conferencing
- Immediate health and safety online training for workers who return to work at designated quarantined sites
- Technical skills online training
- Online training to upgrade English language and digital skills
- Peer group facilitation and employment preparation through videoconferencing
- The province is also helping apprentices by providing grants to purchase tools, protective equipment and clothing for their trade, along with forgiving previous loans to purchase tools. The government is providing an Ontario Tools Grant of $2.5 million in 2020-21 and $7.5 million in 2021-22 and ongoing. This will help new eligible apprentices purchase the equipment they need to start their careers. The funding amounts will be distributed as follows:
- $1,000 for those in motive power sector trades;
- $600 for those in construction and industrial sector trades;
- $400 for those in service sector trades.
To be eligible for the new grant, apprentices must have:
- completed level 1 training on or after April 1, 2020
- an active registered training agreement
- been registered as an apprentice for at least 12 months
- The Government of Ontario is making it easier for people to conduct business and practice physical distancing in the new COVID-19 environment. The province is permitting Ontario corporations to conduct virtual meetings and to defer certain annual meetings in specified circumstances and is allowing the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services to accept copies of documents, electronic signatures on documents, and electronic filing of documents.
- The Canadian Business Resiliency Network and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a toolkit for reopening the Canadian economy with guidance, or access to guidance, for business owners and senior managers responsible for re-establishing their operations while ensuring the health and safety of operators, staff, customers and the general public is at the forefront.
May 20, 2020
- The Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that application documents and updated criteria for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses are now available, and that the program will be opened for applications beginning on May 25. This program will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners, who in turn will give a rent reduction of at least 75 per cent for April and May (retroactive), and June, to their small business tenants.
This program provides property owners the opportunity to do their part in helping small businesses and their employees succeed in these challenging times.
May 19, 2020
- The Ontario Government announced it will keep Ontario schools closed for the rest of this school year in order to protect the health and safety of students during the COVID-19 outbreak. The government is planning for the reopening of schools for the 2020-21 school year, the gradual reopening of child care, and the opening of summer day camps subject to the continuing progress in trends of key public health indicators.
- The Prime Minister also announced the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed for non-essential travel until at least June 21. The border will continue to remain open for commercial traffic and essential workers who cross for work.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an expansion to the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to include many owner-operated small businesses. The CEBA changes will allow more Canadian small businesses to access interest free loans that will help cover operating costs during a period when revenues have been reduced, due to the pandemic. The program will now be available to a greater number of businesses, including:
- those that are sole proprietors receiving income directly from their businesses
- businesses that rely on contractors,
- and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll.
May 14, 2020
- St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik announced the City will not be opening Garden City Golf Course or its public boat launches this weekend and is calling on residents to continue to respect health guidelines, such as physical distancing, proper hygiene and avoiding gatherings.
- Niagara’s Economic Rapid Response Team is asking you take part in its second COVID-19 Business Impact Survey to help us assess its impact on the local economy and plan for recovery. Deadline is May 25. Take the survey here.
- The Ontario Government announced today a list of additional retailers, seasonal businesses and health and community service providers who will be permitted to open or expand their services on Tuesday, May 19.
The government also announced that as soon as 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 16, 2020 the following will be able to reopen:
- Golf courses may open with clubhouses open only for washrooms and restaurants open only for take-out.
- Marinas, boat clubs and public boat launches may open for recreational use.
- Private parks and campgrounds may open to enable preparation for the season and to allow access for trailers and recreational vehicles whose owners have a full season contract.
- Businesses that board animals, such as stables, may allow boarders to visit, care for or ride their animal.
- Sitel is hiring more for than 400 positions at its St. Catharines location in the coming weeks. The leading customer service provider is hiring local positions amid the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic with enhanced safety measures. Interested applicants can apply online at http://jobs.sitel.com using the keyword "St. Catharines." Also, applicants can attend a virtual job fair on Friday, May 15 and Tuesday, May 19 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. by visiting http://sitelgroup.adobeconnect.com/st-cats-jobfair.
- The Ontario government is making the cost of prescription drugs more affordable. Effective today, people using the Ontario Drug Benefit Program will not be required to pay any co-payment until July 1, 2020 for any prescription of 30+ days that is now being dispensed in installments. In addition, existing and new Trillium Drug Program households can apply for an income reassessment to help reduce the financial burden for families during the outbreak.
- The Ontario Government is working together with the province's education sector to voluntarily place available employees in staffing roles needed at congregate care settings during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The Government of Canada launched a new Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) intended to support businesses affected by COVID-19 that have been unable to access other federal assistance measures. The RRRF is being delivered by regional development agencies (RDAs), such as FedDev Ontario, to help more businesses and organizations in sectors across the economy such as manufacturing, technology, tourism and others that are key to the regions and local economies. A total of $252.4 million will be available for southern Ontario businesses.
- The Government of Canada announced that the application period for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) will open Friday, May 15, 2020. The CESB will provide $1,250 every four weeks to eligible students, or $2,000 every four weeks to eligible students with disabilities, or those with children or other dependents. The CESB, which will be delivered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), will provide temporary income support to eligible post-secondary students and new graduates who are unable to work or find work this summer due to COVID-19, or are working and are not making over $1,000.
- The Retail Council of Canada is stepping up for the retail community and is offering its recovery playbooks to all retailers, including non-members. Now available for download here.
May 12, 2020
- The Ontario Government is extending the Declaration of Emergency until June 2 to ensure the province has the necessary tools and health care capacity to contain COVID-19, while gradually reopening businesses, services, and amenities safely. Read more here:
May 11, 2020
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced new measures to support businesses so they can keep their workers on the payroll and weather this pandemic. To help protect Canadian middle class jobs, and safeguard our economy, the Government of Canada will:
- Establish a Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) to provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers, whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through conventional financing.
- Expand the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) to mid-sized companies with larger financing needs. Support for mid-market businesses will include loans of up to $60 million per company, and guarantees of up to $80 million. Through the BCAP, Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) will work with private sector lenders to support access to capital for Canadian businesses in all sectors and regions.
- Continue to provide financing to businesses through Farm Credit Canada, the BDC, and EDC, including through the Canada Account. This will ensure the government is able to respond to a wide range of financing needs, including for some large employers facing higher risks, with stricter terms in order to adequately protect taxpayers.
- The Ontario government is opening provincial parks and conservation reserves for limited day-use access. The first areas will open on Monday May 11, 2020, with the remaining areas opening on Friday May 15, 2020. At this time, recreational activities will be limited to walking, hiking, biking and birdwatching. Day visitors will also be able to access all parks and conservation reserves for free until the end of the month.
May 6, 2020
- Shopify has released a new point-of-sale system to help bricks and mortar stores adapt to the current situation and is offering it for free until October 31, 2020.
- The Ontario Government is further easing restrictions on retail stores and essential construction during COVID-19. The province is allowing all retail stores with a street entrance to provide curbside pickup and delivery, as well as in-store payment and purchases at garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores and safety supply stores. The business owners should review the health and safety guidelines developed by the province and its health and safety association partners.
In addition to easing restrictions on retail, the government is also expanding essential construction to allow below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects like apartments and condominiums to begin and existing above-grade projects to continue. This will help clear the way for the housing and jobs our economy will need to support economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- General Motors announced it will restart some production at its engine plant in St. Catharines the week of May 11.
- To help stop the spread of COVID-19, emergency orders that have been put in place to-date have been extended until May 19. Protecting the health and safety of people across the province is our top priority. Click here for more information.
- Reminder: All publicly-funded schools will remain closed until at least May 31, 2020. Additionally, Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves will also be closed until May 31, 2020.
- Reminder: All publicly-funded schools will remain closed until at least May 31, 2020. Additionally, Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves will also be closed until May 31, 2020.
- The Ontario Government is extending emergency electricity rate relief to families, farms and small businesses until May 31, 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak. Customers who pay time-of-use electricity rates will continue to be billed at the lowest price, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- The Ontario government is expanding virtual mental health services to help thousands of Ontarians experiencing anxiety and depression, including frontline health care workers, during the COVID-19 outbreak. These Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) programs were developed in partnership with MindBeacon and Morneau Shepell and will be provided at no out-of-pocket costs to Ontarians across the province.
May 5, 2020
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an investment of more than $252 million to support farmers, food businesses, and food processors who provide essential services to Canadians every day by ensuring a safe and reliable food supply.
May 1, 2020
- Through an emergency order passed today, the Ontario Government is taking steps to defer a portion of Global Adjustment (GA) charges for industrial and commercial electricity consumers that do not participate in the Regulated Price Plan for the period starting from April 2020. This initiative is intended to provide companies with temporary immediate relief on their monthly electricity bills in April, May and June 2020. The government intends to keep this emergency order in place until May 31, 2020, and subsequent regulatory amendments would, if approved, provide for the deferral of these charges for June 2020 as well.
- The Ontario Government is allowing certain businesses and workplaces to reopen as long as they comply with strict public health measures and operate safely during the COVID-19 outbreak. Those permitted to start up include seasonal businesses and some essential construction projects.
By following the proper health and safety guidelines these businesses will be permitted to begin operations on Monday, May 4 at 12:01 a.m.:
- Garden centres and nurseries with curbside pick-up and delivery only;
- Lawn care and landscaping;
- Additional essential construction projects that include:
- shipping and logistics;
- broadband, telecommunications, and digital infrastructure;
- any other project that supports the improved delivery of goods and services;
- municipal projects;
- colleges and universities;
- child care centres;
- schools; and
- site preparation, excavation, and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development;
- Automatic and self-serve car washes;
- Auto dealerships, open by appointment only;
- Golf courses may prepare their courses for the upcoming season, but not open to the public; and
- Marinas may also begin preparations for the recreational boating season by servicing boats and other watercraft and placing boats in the water, but not open to the public. Boats and watercraft must be secured to a dock in the marina until public access is allowed.
As businesses face unprecedented challenges from COVID 19, there are a number of actions the City, Region, Provincial and Federal Governments have taken to help ease the strain on businesses.
City Tax Grace Period - the City Of St. Catharines has introduced a payment grace period to support residents and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The grace period for payment – which runs until June 30 – means late fees and interest penalties will not be applied to water and tax payments, as well as accounts receivables. Water bills continue to be issued across the City as scheduled.
City Grace Period for Business Licence Payments - a temporary grace period, until further notice: no late fees will be charged for business licences. Also, no late fees for those renewing dog licences.
City Parking - Payment is not required, on a temporary basis, for on-street parking or parking in municipal lots. This is to take away numerous people touching the same parking machines throughout the day. Parking enforcement for lack of payment will also be suspended until further notice.
City Building Inspections - The City of St. Catharines is still processing and reviewing building applications and permits. New permit applications are being accepted via mail/courier. Inspection of occupied dwellings, including building permit, building complaint, property standards and other by-law inspections are suspended until April 6, pending further review.
Ontario's Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 - The government's action plan is a first step in its response to COVID-19 and includes $7 billion in additional resources for the health care system and direct support for people and jobs.
Ontario Together - The Ontario Government launched Ontario Together, a new website that will help businesses and their employees work together with the province to meet the challenges of COVID-19. This initiative will remove barriers allowing Ontario's manufacturing sector to redeploy capacity towards the production of essential equipment like ventilators, masks and swabs.
Regional Relief & Recovery Fund
Delivered by Venture Niagara
Businesses in Niagara unable to access existing federal relief measures can now apply for the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. In order to provide targeted assistance to the small towns and communities we serve, Venture Niagara will focus on assisting “main street” businesses, such as retail shops, restaurants, corner stores, and businesses of strategic importance to our communities, with loans up to $40,000.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and Social Enterprises in Venture Niagara Community Futures Development Corporation’s service area. This area includes the municipalities of Fort Erie, Grimsby, Lincoln, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham, Port Colborne, St.Catharines, Thorold, Wainfleet and Welland. Priority will be given to sole proprietors (not eligible under FedDev Ontario’s RRRF) and “main street” businesses, such as retail shops, restaurants, corner stores etc. and businesses of strategic importance to the community.Eligible applicants must also meet the following criteria which will be captured in an attestation form:
- Established prior to March 1, 2020
- Impacted adversely due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Viable and not experiencing financial pressures or other financial difficulties prior to March 1, 2020
- Have attempted to access other federal supports and were ineligible, rejected, or require funding for expenses in excess of support already received with priority given to applicants who were ineligible or rejected from other federal supports
- Have not or will not apply or accept other Government of Canada equivalent support
- * Note that businesses may also be eligible to receive RRRF funds from FedDev Ontario but will not receive RRRF assistance from both Venture Niagara and FedDev Ontario.
Note: If you receive assistance in the future under the CEBA (or any other Government of Canada program) you must notify Venture Niagara immediately at which time the loan from Venture Niagara will become unconditionally repayable with no forgivable portion.
About the Loan
- Maximum assistance will be $40,000
- 0% interest and no principal payments until December 31, 2022
- Principal repayments can be voluntarily made at any time
- If the recipient is unable to repay the loan by December 31, 2022, the loan will be converted to a three-year term loan with an interest rate of 5%, effective January 1, 2023. The full balance must be repaid no later than December 31, 2025.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy offers help prevent further job losses, encourage employers to re-hire workers laid off due to COVID-19, help better position businesses and other employers to more easily resume normal operations following the crisis.
- Eligible employers include individuals, taxable corporations, and partnerships consisting of eligible employers as well as non‑profit organizations and registered charities.
- Available to eligible employers that see a drop of at least 30 per cent of their revenue.
- Provides a 75 per cent wage subsidy to eligible employers up to a maximum benefit of $847 per week per employee for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020.
- Eligible employers would be able to apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy through the Canada Revenue Agency’s My Business Account portal as well as a web-based application. More details about the application process will be made available shortly.
- Employers are expected to make their best effort to top-up employees' salaries to bring them to pre-crisis levels.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) offers temporary income support to those who have stopped working because of COVID-19. The CERB provides $500 a week for up to 16 weeks. The benefit will be available to workers:
- Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old.
- Who have stopped working because of COVID-19 and have not voluntarily quit their job or are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits.
- Who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.
- Who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period. For subsequent benefit periods, they expect to have no employment or self-employment income.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is jointly delivered by Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency. Applications are open. In order to reduce the strain on the online portal Canadians are asked to apply on specific days of the week depending on their birth month. Use the chart below as a guide.
|Day of week||Birth month|
|Mondays||January, February, March|
|Tuesdays||April, May, June|
|Wednesdays||July, August, September|
|Thursdays||October, November, December|
|Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays||Everyone can apply|
Click here to learn more and apply.
Business Credit Availability Program
The Government of Canada outlined a coordinated package of measures being taken by financial sector partners to support the functioning of markets and continued access to financing for Canadian businesses. The government established the Business Credit Availability Program which will further support financing in the private sector through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC), providing more than $10 billion of additional support to businesses.
- Canada Emergency Business Account
- For small businesses and not-for profits with a 2019 payroll between $50,000 and $1 million.
- Up to $40,000.
- 0 per cent interest until December 31, 2022.
- If the loan is paid off by December 31, 2022, a quarter of the loan will be forgiven.
- More details available here.
- Contact your primary financial institution to apply.
- Small and Medium Enterprise Loan and Guarantee program
- For small and medium-sized businesses
- Up to $6.25 million
- More details available here.
- Contact your primary financial institution to apply.
Work Sharing Program
Effective March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021, and not limited to one specific sector or industry, the Government of Canada introduced temporary special measures to its Work Sharing Program, including:
- Extension of the maximum possible duration of an agreement from 38 weeks to 76 weeks.
- Mandatory cooling off period has been waived for employers who have already used the Work-Sharing program so that eligible employers may immediately enter into a new agreement.
- More details available here.
Changes to Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits - Employment Insurance sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and are available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Toll free line available: 1.833.381.2725
Temporary Business Wage Subsidy - Effective immediately, eligible employers (non-profit organizations, charities, and certain Canadian Controlled Private Corporations) that pay remuneration to an employee, such as salary, wages, or taxable benefits, on or after March 18th and before June 20th, are permitted to reduce remittances of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax by the amount of the subsidy. Learn more here.
Registered Retirement Income Funds Minimum Withdrawal Amounts - targeted help by reducing required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds by 25 per cent for 2020, in recognition of volatile market conditions.
Farm Credit Canada - Farm Credit Canada has received an enhancement to its capital base that will allow for an additional $5 billion in lending capacity.
Buyandsell.gc.ca - Businesses that can supply products and services to support Canada’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are urged to visit buyandsell.gc.ca.
GST Credit - The Government of Canada is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax Credit. This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year.
Canada Child Benefit - Provides additional assistance to families with children by temporarily boosting Canada Child Benefit payments. This measure would deliver almost $2 billion in extra support.
Canada Student Loan Payments - To support student and apprentice loan borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has announced its plan to pause the repayment of Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans until September 30, 2020.
Facebook Small Business Grants Program - Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants for small businesses affected by COVID-19.
BarterPay - BarterPay is offering small businesses solutions to their issues with cashflow through their online trading platform.
Google - Google committed $800+ million to support small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), health organizations and governments, and health workers on the frontline of this global pandemic.
Our Economic Development Team is working with Federal and Provincial government to find out more about how and when businesses will be able to access funding and advocating for a quick turnaround to get money to individuals and businesses. Businesses can reach our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We continue to support our business community with the following initiatives:
- Monitoring the situation and keeping you informed of any and all changes to the industry;
- Observing and adjusting the marketing message in response to the changing situation;
- Sustaining an active presence on social and digital platforms to share information with consumers about your state of business;
- Collaborating with industry partners to design a strategy and ensure alignment of efforts; and
- Continuing to provide exceptional service to ensure ongoing customer experience
We are also part of the the Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team, an effort by Niagara’s Mayors and Regional Chair to support local businesses impacted by COVID-19. More details on this as well as supports for businesses can be found here.
The St. Catharines Digital Main Street Squad is offering free webinars to help small businesses cope with COVID-19.
Two special workshops are coming up Monday, April 6 for small business owners:
- How to Manage Your Finances and Cash Flow During this Covid-19 Crisis
April, 9-10:30 a.m.
The world just changed rapidly, leaving many uncertain of how they are going to survive the economic impact of Covid-19. Enterprise Toronto is hosting free webinars with Andrew Patricio of Bizlaunch on how the small business owner can manage their finances during this crisis. Register here.
- Your COVID-19 Employment Questions Answered:
April 6, 2-3:30 p.m.
With the spread of COVID-19 and the partial, temporary and full closures of many businesses, we know that small business owners have questions about how to deal with their employees. Join Stephen Wolpert and Marc Kitay, partners at award-winning employment law boutique Whitten & Lublin for a session to answer questions like:
-Am I allowed to lay my staff off during this emergency?
-What are the consequences of doing so?
-What if I can’t afford to rehire them when the emergency ends?
-Are my employees eligible for employment insurance or wage subsidies?
-If I am the owner but I am on payroll, am I eligible?
-What steps can I take to protect myself from claims by my employees?
Here are more resources to help your business cope with COVID-19:
- World Health Organization' Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19 document
- Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce offers a business guide to coping with COVID-19
- Ontario Chamber of Commerce
- Canadian Chamber of Commerce has useful information and a Preparing for a Pandemic Guide.
- BDC has a comprehensive guide for business continuity
- Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
- Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses for keeping you and your employees safe
How businesses can cope with COVID-19
With public health officials warning people to avoid large crowds to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 businesses can expect to face some challenges as we work our way through this evolving situation.
Here is some advice from the St. Catharines Enterprise Centre that businesses can use to help adapt to this challenging situation.
- Look after your employees
They are your biggest asset so it makes sense to support them in any way that you can and help them to navigate applications for employment insurance claims if required.
- Review your health and safety protocols
Enhance already careful sanitizing and cleaning measures and increase frequency. Instruct staff to stay home if they have even minor symptoms (cough, fever, sore throat, or generally feeling unwell).
- Communicate with your customers
Step up your communications with your customers. Keep them informed of any operational changes that you make, remind them of your hours of operation, and offer to help them. Be a trusted and helpful resource for your customers.
- Check your financials
Have conversations with landlords, creditors, suppliers and others about what options are available.
What adjustments can you make to adapt your services to the needs of your customers? Can you offer online shopping? Is free delivery or in-store / curbside pickup an option? Can you meet online instead of in person? Small changes can make a big difference and help keep your business going.
Gift cards are a great way for you to keep generating revenue now when volume is down and gives the customer something to use when regular business practises resume.
- Watch your marketing
While it's important to adapt marketing campaigns to this ever-evolving situation, avoid unreasonable and unsustainable offers to attract immediate sales and customers for a short-term gain. It is still important to focus on the future and stay the course.
Participate in shop local and shop small campaigns such as #ShopSTC. Make an effort to support other small businesses. Can you make purchases from your neighbouring businesses? Can you offer sensible joint promotions?
- Revisit your business plan
Use downtime to make your business better. Take a look at the things you've been putting off, such as improving your CRM system, updating your website and developing a far-reaching online ad campaign. Planning now means you'll be ready to go when things stabilize.
Province of Ontario
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