Businesses throughout Mississauga, Milton and the surrounding region have been impacted by COVID-19 and the related restrictions. Reports of several local businesses and local outlets of larger companies being impacted by earlier COVID-19 waves including the Muddy Duck restaurant and The Disney Store at Square One Shopping Centre both of which have closed.
The omicron wave has involved new restrictions and impacts to businesses in the region and many businesses are concerned about surviving and thriving in this environment. There have been a number of recent governmental programs announced that may assist businesses in planning their next steps during the omicron wave and beyond. Receiving the right corporate law advice can help your business navigate these programs.
Omicron wave impacted Ontario businesses
In accordance with the Ontario Roadmap to Reopen, the Ontario government moved Ontario back to a modified version of Step 2 temporarily to help combat the omicron wave of COVID-19. This meant that certain businesses like gyms, movie theatres and concert venues were ordered to shut completely, restaurants were restricted to takeout orders and could no longer offer indoor dining, and many retailers saw their capacity limits reduced to 50%.
This has a significant impact on business revenues. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses reports that only 35 percent of Ontario’s small businesses are at normal revenues. They have also stated that since the start of the pandemic, restaurants have lost over 400 days of indoor dining business and gyms have lost over 395 days and counting.
The Ontario government recently announced a plan to ease these restrictions over the coming weeks. In the meantime, businesses impacted by the closures or restrictions may be seeking relief. Ontario Finance Minister, Peter Bethlenfalvy recognized this stating: “[w]e recognize that these necessary public health measures are impacting businesses, and as we have been since the beginning of the pandemic, we are there to support them”.
The Ontario government has introduced three key programs to assist businesses during this time: the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program, the Small Business Relief Grant, and the Tax Deferral Program, which are described in greater detail below.
The Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program
The Ontario Government has now opened applications for its Business Costs Rebate program. This program provides businesses with rebates for their energy and property tax costs while they are experiencing COVID-19 restrictions. The relevant period of time is from December 19, 2021 until the time the restrictions are no longer in place, which may vary depending on the type of business. The rebates are 50% for businesses that have reduced capacity (for example, retailers) and 100% for businesses that are required to close (for example, movie theatres).
Eligible costs include:
- Municipal property taxes;
- Provincial property taxes;
- Electricity bills;
- Natural gas bills; and,
- Propane and/or heating oil (where natural gas is unavailable).
The energy portion of the program excludes any fees related to water, appliance rental (for example hot water heater rentals) and arrears/late fees.
As part of the application, businesses are required to provide proof of expenses. Where the business is a tenant and does not pay property taxes directly, but pays through the landlord, they can submit the lease agreement with an invoice from the landlord for the property tax portion of any common area maintenance fees and taxes, maintenance and insurance fees.
The Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program Guide provides full details on the application process.
The Ontario Small Business Relief Grant
The Small Business Relief Grant is a program that has been announced, however, it is not currently accepting applications. It is anticipated that grant funds will be distributed in or around February of 2022 and that eligible businesses will receive grants of $10,000.
Those eligible for the program are businesses impacted by the closures as part of the restrictions associated with the omicron wave. For businesses that previously applied for and received the Ontario Small Business Support Grant earlier during the pandemic, it is not anticipated that a new application will be required. If your business received the previous grant and your business is subject to closure under the modified Step 2 of the Roadmap to Reopen, you will likely not need to reapply, but you may be asked to provide additional information.
The Ontario government has indicated there will be an application portal launched in the coming weeks for new businesses or for businesses who were not eligible for the previous grant, but may be eligible for the current grant.
The eligibility criteria are that the business must:
- have been required to close due to public health orders that took effect on January 5, 2022;
- have fewer than 100 employees as of December 31, 2021; and
- be an active business as of January 14, 2022.
Tax Deferral Program
The final program is not a rebate or grant program that provides new money, but is a tax deferral program designed to improve business cash flows during a time of significant restrictions.
Under this program, Ontario businesses can defer the payment of most provincially administered taxes for the six-month period of January 1, 2022 until July 1, 2022 without incurring any interest or penalties.
The taxes included in this program include the following:
- Employer Health Tax;
- Beer, Wine & Spirits Taxes;
- Tobacco Tax;
- Insurance Premium Tax;
- Fuel Tax;
- International Fuel Tax Agreement;
- Gas Tax;
- Retail Sales Tax on Insurance Contracts & Benefit Plans;
- Mining Tax; and,
- Race Tracks Tax.
Contact the Business Lawyers at Prudent Law in Mississauga and Milton for Skilled Assistance with Corporate Law Matters
The web of programs supporting businesses during the pandemic can be complex to navigate. The business lawyers at Prudent Law in Mississauga are trusted professionals who can assist your corporation to ensure you are receiving the right information and advice. We provide practical advice on all corporate law matters. If you have a question about the new Ontario programs or have another corporate law issue you’d like to discuss with one of our experienced corporate lawyers, please call us at 905-361-9789 or contact us online.