COVID-19 Resources for Businesses
To our valued merchants, commercial business owners and residents in the Uptown Yonge BIA, please find info and regular updates about the COVID 19 emergency in Toronto and what programs are being put in place to support businesses and residents during this time.
May 26, 2020 Update
The Application Portal for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program opens today and tomorrow for commercial property owners in Ontario to register.
The application portal to register to apply for the CECRA program will be open on Tuesday, May 26, and Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Once a property owner has registered, the portal will be available for the landlord to complete the application 24/7.
To qualify for CECRA for small businesses, the commercial property owners with up to 10 tenants must:
- own commercial real property* which is occupied by one or more impacted small business tenants
- enter (or have already entered) into a legally binding rent reduction agreement for the period of April, May and June 2020, reducing an impacted small business tenant’s rent by at least 75%
- ensure the rent reduction agreement with each impacted tenant includes:
- a moratorium on eviction for the period during which the property owner agrees to apply the loan proceeds, and
- a declaration of rental revenue included in the attestation
For full program details; visit: www.bit.ly/2A7h9Uk
Update to the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) criteria.
Last week, the federal government announced an expansion to the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to include a greater number of businesses 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.
To qualify under the expanded eligibility criteria, applicants with payroll lower than $20,000 would need:
- a business operating account at a participating financial institution
- a Canada Revenue Agency business number, and to have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return.
- eligible non-deferrable expenses between $40,000 and $1.5 million. Eligible non-deferrable expenses could include costs such as rent, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.
Expenses will be subject to verification and audit by the Government of Canada. Funding will be delivered in partnership with financial institutions. More details, including the launch date for applications under the new criteria, will follow in the days to come
For more information, go to https://ceba-cuec.ca/
May 19, 2020 Update
Today, Tuesday, May 19, 2020, select business owners and service providers are permitted to open or expand their services, provided that the general trend on health indicators continues to improve as part of the first stage of the government’s reopening framework. We recommend that our members review this Detailed list of businesses that will be allowed to open under Phase 1 of the Government of Ontario’s reopening framework as well as these Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace.
In general, the businesses that will be allowed to open are:
- Retail services that are not in shopping malls and have separate street-front entrances with measures in place that can enable physical distancing, such as limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time and booking appointments beforehand or on the spot.
- Seasonal businesses and recreational activities for individualor single competitors, including training and sport competitions conducted by a recognized national or provincial sport organization. This includes indoor and outdoor non-team sport competitions that can be played while maintaining physical distancing and without spectators, such as tennis, track and field and horse racing.
- Animal services, specifically pet care services, such as grooming and training, and regular veterinary appointments.
- Indoor and outdoor household services that can follow public health guidelines, such as housekeepers, cooks,cleaning and maintenance.
- Lifting essential workplace limits on construction.
- Allowing certain health and medical servicesto resume, such as in-person counselling and scheduled surgeries based on the ability to meet pre-specified conditions as outlined in A Measured Approach to Planning for Surgeries and Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as resuming professional services such as shifting Children’s Treatment Centres from virtual to in-person.
May 12, 2020 Update
The City of Toronto has officially announced the launch of ShopHERE, a new program to be delivered through the Digital Main Street platform, digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere. TABIA, Digital Main Street, the City of Toronto, Shopify and others partners have come together to create a program that will provide 3,000 Ecommerce websites to Toronto’s most vulnerable businesses at a time when they need it most.
ShopHERE provides Toronto’s independent businesses and artists the opportunity to develop an online store, which will be built and launched for free in just a matter of days. Hands-on support will be provided throughout the entire process from volunteer website developers and marketing and business students.
What do businesses and artists get as part of ShopHERE?
- Their choice of a template online Shopify store customized with their information, branding, logo, etc.
- Hands-on assistance setting up and launching their online store.
- Training and support covering digital marketing, shipping and operating their online store.
- Access to free tools and various credits (from over 10 partners) to help support the launch of their online stores.
The ShopHERE program is open to any businesses or artist that meets the following requirements:
- Pays commercial property taxes in the City of Toronto
- Have fewer than 10 employees, or fewer than 25 if they are a café, restaurant, or bar
- Not be a corporate chain or franchise
- OR must be an artist located within the City of Toronto.
To sign up for this exciting program and receive a free online store you can fill out the application form here: https://digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere/
If you have any questions, reach out to Digital Main Street at firstname.lastname@example.org. A marketing package and sample social media posts are attached.
May 9, 2020 Update
Since the announcement regarding the curbside opening of retail businesses, The City of Toronto Emergency Operation Table team has been working with different departments in the city developing some guiding principals, guidelines and protocols, with the intent of assisting those businesses that will be participating in the curbside program. We have attached documents prepared for businesses planning to re-open for curbside pick-up on Monday. The attachments include a fact sheet for guiding business operations, information related to CurbTO, and signage for places of business.
Uptown Yonge BIA.
April 30, 2020 Update
New Support Centre Provides Virtual Help for Businesses
The City of Toronto recently launched the BusinessTO Support Centre to provide support to businesses with a focus on completing applications for government assistance such as the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS),Canada’s Work-Sharing and Canada’s Emergency Business Account (CEBA) programs. Business advisors will also provide guidance on other City programs and general business advice.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the City of Toronto launched the BusinessTO Support Centre. The centre provides businesses with one-on-one virtual assistance completing applications for government programs, as well as general business advice. The City has also expanded its Digital Main Street program to help small businesses develop their websites, launch ecommerce platforms, and more.
DIGITAL MAIN STREET
The DMS (Digital MainStreet) program offers a FREE SERVICE to helps local businesses expand their online services during this difficult time. Created in collaboration with TABIA, DMS offers tools for businesses to transition to a digital platform, including connections to trusted digital vendors, structured online learning, and a Digital Service Squad who are trained to provide one-on-one assistance.
Many of you have met and worked with Digital Service Squad Member, Kelsey Ann Canning. If you would like to book a meeting with Kelsey directly go to https://calendly.com/kelseydigitalmainstreet
Submitted by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) and Save Small Business
The package of economic support announced to date for businesses in response to COVID-19 leaves a critical gap for many small businesses. Without assistance with fixed costs, many small businesses could become insolvent as a result of forced shutdowns. This note presents policy options to support commercial rent abatement.
- The federal government has announced significant support for businesses anchored by the Canada Emergency Wage Supplement (CEWS), federally-backed credit, and deferred income and sales tax remittances. The Canada Emergency Response (CEBR) also provides income for some self-employed owners and furloughed workers ineligible for the wage subsidy.
- These initiatives leave a significant gap for local businesses, both because they may not be eligible and because the package is not responsive to their needs.
- Without a reduction or waiver of commercial rent, many local businesses may close permanently in the coming months. Nearly 70% of businesses surveyed by savesmallbusiness.ca expect to default on their lease by May 1st. Four in ten businesses surveyed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses did not pay their April rent in full.
- This requires a public policy response. Case-by-case negotiations with landlords are not achieving scale, and surveys by savesmallbusiness.ca and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses make clear that affected small businesses cannot carry further debt to cover rent, even at favourable terms.
- With no guiding policy, responses by commercial landlords vary significantly. Most tenants have not yet received any abatement Landlords in turn often have significant mortgage obligations.
- The actual delivery of subsidy payments is not urgent, but the prompt announcement of a program is. A consistent and fair framework for landlord-tenant negotiations, with incentive for immediate abatements, would prevent many businesses from closing. Paired with support from banks on mortgage deferrals, funds could flow to landlords at a later date.
Response: The Small Business Emergency Rent Abatement
- The federal government can underpin the survival of small businesses with a commercial rent abatement program that shares burden between the federal government, landlords, and tenants.
- The program would be complementary to existing wage subsidy and credit initiatives by supplementing for businesses and non-profits who need assistance with fixed costs to remain solvent and addressing gaps in existing programs.
- Proposed program structure:
- The federal government would reimburse 66% of any commercial rent abatement provided by landlords to tenants, up to a maximum of $6,600 of federal support per tenancy per month for up to three months between April and July 2020 (i.e. up to $10,000 per month in commercial rent reduction from landlords).
- Eligibility would be limited to businesses and non-profits with gross annual revenue of less than $5 million in 2019 and within business categories most affected by COVID-19. (As an example, the UK’s qualifying criteria is in Appendix A)
- Upon announcement of clear details of the program, landlords could provide tenants with rent abatements immediately, without waiting for the federal application. Tax remittance deferrals, and deferral terms from lenders, should provide flexibility for landlords to offer immediate relief on promise of future reimbursement. This depends on unambiguous and simple program design. This could allow the application design to be sequenced after the CEWS and CERB and draw lessons from the rollout.
- An alternative but more delayed payment method would be to design this as a refundable tax credit for landlords who provide rent abatements.
- To facilitate a timely response, the program could have a very simple design and application process. Landlords would provide proof of rent amount and abatement (through a signed declaration from their tenant and bank statements). Confirmed rent abatement could be verified on the landlord’s next tax year and with a transparent reporting of properties that have received support (allowing tenants to verify).
- As with the CEWS, there is some risk that funds will be misallocated to landlords that would have provided abatement without support or to tenants that could have maintained their rent anyway. This is a legitimate concern but outweighed by the substantial macroeconomic risk of inaction. Survey evidence suggests landlord response has been minimal to date and very few businesses retain sufficient revenue to meet their fixed costs.
- Working directly with landlords provides for a simplified application process and allows landlords to provide immediate relief while awaiting federal reimbursement.
- We estimate the cost of this program at between $0.9 billion and $1.5 billion, depending on take-up. Please see appendix B and attached for details.
|Example 1:||Example 2|
|Net rent for tenant||$0||$5,000|
|Net proceeds for landlord||$1,998||$11,600|
Urgency of response
- A rent abatement strategy is needed immediately. A significant percentage of small businesses are unable to make April rent and that surges as emergency shutdowns extend into May
- Many local small businesses have seen revenue declines over 80% and have already laid off most, if not all, of their staff. The little revenue they have left is often insufficient to pay fixed costs. Without immediate relief they could be locked out of their properties or bankrupted by the time they can re-open.
- The majority of surveyed small businesses have personally guaranteed their leases, amplifying the personal and systemic risk.
Limits of debt
- Relying on debt is an insufficient solution to the current shutdown. Business owners report that their revenues would not support increased debt loads in normal times, and they are already being pushed to debt to address other costs that have not been relieved.
- For businesses that are unsure whether they will re-open, additional debt tips the scales toward permanent closure. More than half of businesses surveyed in BC are concerned they will be insolvent or unable to restart their business.
- Less than half of business surveyed by CFIB expect to take on loans from the Canada Emergency Business Account. Others do not qualify or are too concerned about taking on more debt.
- Debt solutions also fail a fairness test. As businesses have been shut down by government requests and orders to keep communities safe, it is unfair to ask them to bear the costs with revenue they will never recover. The proposed abatement approach shares that risk between businesses, landlords, and the public who benefit from the public health measures.
Property tax and utilities
- After rent, the next largest category of fixed costs for most local small businesses are property taxes and utilities. Some, but not all, leases pass on property tax and utility costs to tenants. This proposal would be made more effective if paired with property tax and utility reduction relief.
- Some provincial and local governments are already supporting some relief and deferral for small businesses. For example, British Columbia has already moved to cut its school taxes for commercial properties in half, which likely provides around 20 percent relief in overall property taxes for the year. However, responses to date are uneven and insufficient.
- The fiscal capacity of local governments and some provinces to offer this type of relief is limited and under severe strain from COVID. A one-time federal transfer could support provincial and local government fiscal capacity to ensure equal access to services for all Canadians regardless of where they live.
Role of financial institutions
- Financial institutions have a critical role to play in supporting commercial rent abatement. Reports to date suggest that landlords and homeowners are getting slow responses from banks in structuring payment deferrals, and are being offered deferrals on principal only, with interest accruing on the deferred amount. This may ease cashflow but does not represent burden sharing on the part of banks to support rent relief.
- The economic costs of the public health intervention should be shared by government, landlords, businesses, and financial institutions. A meaningful response by the financial institutions would include deferral of principal and waiver of interest on mortgages for participating landlords. Australia has implemented guidelines to encourage banks to support landlords that are abating and deferring rent for tenants.
Appendix A: United Kingdom eligibility for small business support
The United Kingdom is offering full relief from business taxes for the 2020 to 2021 tax year for the retail, hospital and leisure sectors.
You are eligible for the business rates holiday if:
- your business is based in England
- your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector
Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied properties that are wholly or mainly being used:
- as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
- for assembly and leisure
- for hospitality, as hotels, guest & boarding premises or self-catering accommodation
Appendix B: Approach to cost estimate
Our cost estimates are based on Statistics Canada Canadian Industry Statistics data for businesses with less than $5 million in revenue in the five industries most likely to have been affected by the restrictions put in place due to COVID-19. These are: retail trade; restaurants and eating places; arts, entertainment and recreation; other services; and health care and social assistance. This dataset provides information on the number of businesses and their average annual rent.
We made the following assumptions in our estimates.
- Some of the premises leased will have rent that is higher than $10,000 per month, and that will be included in the data. We reduced the total rent by 20% to account for this.
- Not every landlord will take up this offer, as some will have tenants whose operations remain strong during COVID-19. We assumed a take-up rate of between 40% and 70%.
Using these assumptions, the estimate per-month range of cost to the government is $285 million to $498 million, leading to a three-month estimate of approximately $900 million to $1.5 billion. These assumptions assume a simple and inclusive program design that drives very high take-up.
It should be noted that any static estimate remains an overstatement of the net cost to government. Some of the rent that would be paid through this program would otherwise have been paid using a CEBA loan. This program will likely serve to reduce the requirement for CEBA loans, or the total amount that businesses will borrow and have forgiven.
List of Essential Businesses
On March 23, 2020, Emergency Declarations were issued by Mayor John Tory declaring a State of Emergency in the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario expanded its state of emergency to shut down all non-essential services to curb the spread of COVID-19. Some of the identified essential businesses include grocery stores, pet stores, gat stations, liquor and beer stores, pharmacies, banks, auto-repairs, restaurants for take-out only, hotels, and telecommunications. Find the full list of Essential businesses here.
Support Programs for Businesses and Residents
Below, you will find a compilation of the many programs being rolled-out to support businesses and residents in this difficult time. Last week, the City of Toronto urgently convened a dedicated Economic Support and Recovery Task Force (ESRTF) to identify both short and long-term strategies to support businesses and residents impacted by the COVID-19 situation. The ESRTF has already launched several immediate actions, including:
- Extending the grace period for all property tax, utility bills and late penalties by 60 days (and suspending any pre-authorized payments and post-dated cheques during this period).
- Exempting all retail businesses from the City’s Noise By-law to facilitate 24-hour deliveries and ensure that essential goods remain in stock.
There is also work underway to establish a contingency fund for businesses.
You can find more information on the economic supports and services offered by the City here: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/economic-support-recovery/. This webpage will be updated as additional measures are implemented.
The Government of Canada announced an Economic Response Plan to support Canadians, including:
- Waiving the waiting period and medical certificate requirements for the EI Sickness Benefit.
- Establishing an Emergency Care Benefit for workers, including the self-employed, who have to stay home and do not qualify for paid sick leave or EI.
- Implementing an Emergency Support Benefit for workers facing unemployment who are not eligible for EI.
- Providing a 3-month wage subsidy for eligible small employers, which will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer; and
- Improving access to credit through the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP).
- To support Ontarians through the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, the Government of Ontario is providing immediate electricity rate relief for families, small businesses and farms paying time-of-use (TOU) rates.
For a 45-day period, the government is working to suspend time-of-use electricity rates, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour. This reduced price will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week to all time-of-use customers, who make up the majority of electricity consumers in the province. By switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50 per cent compared to on-peak rates.
To deliver savings as quickly and conveniently as possible, this discount will be applied automatically to electricity bills without the need for customers to fill out an application form.
You can find more information about the Economic Response Plan on the Government of Canada’s website, here: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan. For questions about these programs, we encourage you to contact your Member of Parliament (MP).
We are also looking to the Government of Ontario for additional measures to support businesses and residents in Ontario impacted by COVID-19. Last weekend, the Government of Ontario launched Ontario Together, a program designed to harness the ideas and output capacities of local businesses, organizations, and industry leaders in our response to COVID-19. If you own a business and have any suggestions, we would encourage you to visit the webpage linked above. The Federal government has also released a call to action seeking manufacturers that can help to produce medical supplies. In addition, Canada’s six largest banks – BMO, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC, Scotiabank, and TD – have announced plans to work with personal and small business customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 situation. Business owners are encouraged to contact their bank directly to discuss the options available to them.
Government of Canada
COVID-19 Update Page
Resources for Business
Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
Helping Canadians With the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Calling All Suppliers – Help Canada combat Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
ROE Guidelines for Issuing EI
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Benefits and services
Destination Development Association
Facebook for Business
Retail Council of Canada
World Health Organization COVID-19
City of Toronto Updates and Resources