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COVID-19 Resources for Businesses

Posted in News & Updates

COVID-19 Resources for Businesses

Updated: Aug. 6

Updates

Support for Businesses

St. Catharines Rapid Response Team

Business Resources

Contacts

Updates

Aug. 6, 2020

  • The Ontario government is investing $1.5 million through the new Tourism Economic Development Recovery Fund and offering promotional incentives at provincial attractions to help the province's tourism industry and welcome back visitors after the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund will support projects that develop innovative tourism products and experiences, drive private sector tourism investments, workforce development, and support tourism operators to learn more through tourism industry associations.

Aug. 4, 2020

  • Premier Doug Ford was in Niagara, including a visit to CanAmerican Stone Spreader to meet the family and staff who run this made-in-Ontario business. They manufacture right here in St. Catharines and play a significant role in supporting the local economy. 

July 31, 2020

  • The Government of Canada announced that the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) will be extended by one month to help eligible small business pay rent for August. All provinces and territories continue to participate in this initiative, and collaborate with the federal government to provide rent supports to those small businesses most in need.
    - To find out how much rent support you may be eligible for, visit Ontario.ca/rentassistance
    - Learn more and apply here.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, today announced that COVID Alert, a new national mobile app, is now available to Canadians for free download. The app, first developed in Ontario, helps notify users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

    Use of COVID Alert is voluntary, and serves as another tool to help limit the spread of COVID-19. COVID Alert is available for free use and download from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

    The COVID Alert app uses Bluetooth technology to detect when users are near each other. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to let other users know without sharing any personal information. Ontarians who receive an exposure alert can then get tested and take action to help keep themselves, their families, and their friends from spreading COVID-19 throughout the community. To notify other people if an app user has tested positive for COVID-19, they can enter their one-time key from Ontario's test results website (Ontario.ca/covidresults) into the app. A message will then be sent to other app users who have been within two metres of them for at least 15 minutes within the past 14 days, without sending any information that identifies the user, or the time and place of exposure.

    If an app user receives a message from COVID Alert that they may have been exposed to the virus, they should follow the public health advice given on the app and get tested.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit will in the coming weeks and that the Canadian government plans to move out-of-work Canadians over to the Employment Insurance program. Canadians who don't qualify for CERB will be able to access to a transitional, parallel benefit that is similar to EI. More details to come.

  • The Ontario government is implementing additional measures for restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments, as the province carefully and gradually reopens to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

    In order to keep patrons of restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments safe, the amended orders will implement the following measures: 
    - All patrons will be required to be seated at all times, in both indoor and outdoor areas, with limited exceptions;
    - Bars and restaurants (and also tour boat operators) in Ontario will be required to keep client logs for a period of 30 days and to disclose the client logs to the medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on request, which will support case and contact tracing.
    - Complementary changes are being made in respect of existing provisions relating to tour operators and tour boat operators.
     
    The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health experts continue to closely monitor the evolving situation to advise when public health measures or restrictions can be further loosened or if they need to be tightened.

  • The Niagara Regions temporary face-covering by-law comes into effect today (July 31) and requires residents to wear mandatory face coverings in enclosed public places, and on Regional and Municipal transit during the COVID-19 pandemic. This by-law is to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in indoor public spaces as more businesses and services begin to reopen.

July 30, 2020

  • The Ontario Government announced today elementary students will be headed back to class five days a week in September while students in most high schools will be part of 15-student cohorts who will alternate in-class learning and online learning. High schools with smaller enrollment will be able to offer full-time in-class learning.

    Students in Grades 4-12will be required to wear a cloth masks while at school. Masks will be optional for younger students. Parents will have the option to send their children to in-person classes.

July 28, 2020

July 23, 2020

  • Niagara Region Council passes a temporary face covering by-law to require residents to wear mandatory face coverings in enclosed public places, and on Regional and Municipal transit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

July 22, 2020

  • The Ontario Government passed the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 to ensure important measures remain in place to address the threat of COVID-19 once the provincial declaration of emergency has ended. These measures will provide the province with the necessary flexibility to address the ongoing risks and effects of the COVID-19 outbreak as Ontario moves towards recovery. The Act will come into force on July 24, 2020 to coincide with the termination of the declared provincial emergency.

  • The Ontario Governement also passed the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, which will help create jobs and generate development by getting key infrastructure projects built faster. It will also strengthen communities by ensuring municipalities are equipped with the tools they need to continue to provide critical services, along with protecting consumers, modernizing services, improving the education system and removing social and economic barriers for young people.

  • Interested in learning how to digitally modernize your business? We are working with the Scale Up Institute to bring access to the Recovery Activation Program to St. Catharines businesses.

    The Recovery Activation Program (RAP) is an immersive online workshop program connecting businesses with industry experts for guidance, mentorship and practical advice about process modernization and end-to-end digital transformation.

    RAP is a free program for businesses and supports firms of any size across Ontario. Participants will graduate from RAP with an expertly vetted Digital Transformation Blueprint which will detail a specific plan to attack each participant’s unique barriers to digital connectivity and will act as a highly practical tool throughout their digital restructuring.

    Applications are now open - learn more and apply here.

July 20, 2020

  • The Ontario Government announced today seven more regions will be moving into Stage 3, including the Niagara Region. That means more businesses in St. Catharines will be allowed to safely reopen starting July 24.

    As part of the Stage 3 reopening, Ontario will be increasing gathering limits, subject to physical distancing requirements, for those regions, including St. Catharines, entering the next stage to the following:
    - Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people
    - Outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people

July 17, 2020

  • The City of St. Catharines' mandatory mask bylaw comes into today July 17.

    Businesses can download digital copies of printable signs for posting at entrances below, in addition to a mask policy they can complete and print and an operator implementation guide. Read more here: www.stcatharines.ca/masks.

July 16, 2020

July 15, 2020

  • Reminder: If you are a St. Catharines small or medium-sized business that hasn’t been able to access other Federal government relief programs to help with the impact of COVID-19 you may be eligible for up to $40,000 in from the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund through Venture Niagara. Learn more here.

July 14, 2020

July 13, 2020

  • The Ontario Government announced nearly all businesses and public spaces will reopen in Stage 3 of the its reopening framework with public health and workplace safety measures and restrictions in place. The province will allow 24 public health regions to enter Stage 3 on Friday, July 17.

    Niagara Region , including St. Catharines, is not among the public health unit regions moving into Stage 3 July 17. Government officials said Niagara may be allowed to enter Stage 3 as early as next week.

    At the beginning of each week, the province will continue to reassess local trends in public health indicators, including rates of transmission, hospital capacity, progress on testing and contact tracing, to determine if additional public health unit regions can progress to Stage 3.

  • As part of the Stage 3 reopening, Ontario will be increasing gathering limits for those regions entering the next stage to the following:
    - Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people
    - Outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people

    Gathering limits are subject to physical distancing requirements. Public gathering limits apply to indoor and outdoor events, such as community events or gatherings, concerts, live shows, festivals, conferences, sports and recreational fitness activities, fundraisers, fairs, festivals or open houses. A two metre distance must still be maintained at such events.

  • While nearly all businesses and public spaces will reopen in Stage 3, the following, high-risk places and activities are not yet safe to open, even if a region has entered Stage 3, due to the likelihood of large crowds congregating, difficulties with physical distancing, or challenges maintaining the proper cleaning and sanitation required to prevent the spread of COVID‑19:
    - Amusement parks and water parks
    - Buffet-style food services
    - Dancing at restaurants and bars, other than by performers hired by the establishment following specific requirements
    - Overnight stays at camps for children
    - Private karaoke rooms
    - Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports
    - Saunas, steam rooms, bath houses and oxygen bars
    - Table games at casinos and gaming establishments

  • St. Catharines City Council will consider a proposed temporary mandatory mask by-law at today's (July 13) City Council meeting.

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford will announce plans for Stage 3 of the reopening of the province today at 1 p.m.

July 9, 2020

  • The Ontario government, in consultation with Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, has extended all emergency orders currently in force that were made under s.7.0.2(4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to July 22, 2020.

    The extension was made to ensure the province maintains the necessary flexibility to protect public health and safety as more businesses reopen and people go back to work.

July 7, 2020

July 6, 2020

July 3, 2020

  • The Ontario government is investing $3 million to provide free online health and safety training to make it easier for job seekers and workers to get essential qualifications, while practising physical distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

    Up to 100,000 job seekers can now take free online workplace health and safety training through Employment Ontario. There are 10 courses on offer, which include topics such as infection control, conducting health and safety incident investigations, ladder safety, slips, trips and falls prevention, and preventing workplace violence and harassment. Job seekers should contact an Employment Ontario service provider in their area to enroll.

  • The Ontario government is helping restaurant and bar owners reopen and safely serve more customers by issuing a new emergency order and amending another to allow municipalities to quickly pass temporary bylaws for the creation and extension of patios.

    The province will also allow restaurant and bars to serve customers in covered outdoor dining areas. Outdoor dining areas can open if they have a roof, canopy, tent, awning or other covering. At least two full sides of the outdoor dining area must be open to the outdoors and must not be substantially blocked in any way. 

July 2, 2020

  • Mayor Walter Sendzik has requested a special meeting of City Council, scheduled to take place on Monday, July 6, at 4:30 p.m., to discuss the possibility of a temporary by-law that would require residents to wear masks, or face coverings, in inside spaces in which members of the public are within close proximity, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) has been extended by one month to cover eligible small business rents for July. In addition, to simplify the application process for all applicants, the Government of Canada is removing the requirement to claw-back insurance proceeds and provincial rent supports from the CECRA forgivable loan amount for both existing and new applicants.

    Existing applicants who are affected will be notified and will have any previously clawed-back amounts restored to their forgivable loan. Learn more and apply through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website.


Support for Businesses

St. Catharines Rapid Response Team

Business Resources

Contacts


Support for Businesses

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.

Municipal

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.

Provincial

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. 

Federal

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.
If You Are Eligible You Can Start the Application ProcessIf you have not received any of the above noted programs and you are in Venture Niagara’s service area, register for a REGIONAL RELIEF & RECOVERY FUND application by sending an email to  loans@ventureniagara.com. Please include your Name, Business Name and Phone Number. You will then receive the application package.

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
      • EDC will guarantee new operating credit and cash flow term loans that financial institutions extend to SMEs
      • BDC will co-lend to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements with financial institutions.
    • 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 BenefitsEmployment 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 CanadaFarm 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.

Other

Facebook Small Business Grants ProgramFacebook is offering $100 million in cash grants for small businesses affected by COVID-19.

BarterPayBarterPay 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.



St. Catharines Rapid Response Team

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 edceconomic@stcatharines.ca.

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.


Business Resources

FREE WEBINARS

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?

    Register here.

Here are more resources to help your business cope with COVID-19:

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.

  • Adapt
    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.

Contacts

City of St. Catharines
Citizens First, Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
www.stcatharines.ca
citizensfirst@stcatharines.ca
905.688.5600 

Alectra
Business Inquiries
1.833.253.2872
alectrautilities.com/AskUs

Province of Ontario
Stop the Spread Business Information Line
1.888.444.3659

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