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What small businesses can do while they are closed to prepare for the reopening

Woman holding up sign about small businesses being affected by COVID-19

As the Coronavirus rages on, businesses nationwide have been forced to close down. The condition is no different in Canada with major provinces like Ontario and Quebec issuing new guidelines to counter the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases.


Most of these guidelines are targeted towards small businesses that do not have the liquidity or resources to take their business online. These guidelines can seem unfair because while these small businesses are reeling under the financial stress of a slowing economy, big corporations are being allowed to function by exploiting loopholes in the system.


But there’s a method to the madness. If you are a small business in Ontario and other provinces of Canada, there are things you can do while you prepare for a potential reopening.


This article offers to shed some light on the various provisions, grants, and allowances that you can avail to steer the crisis and make the most out of the time that you will remain closed.


Avail of the support offered by the government


The Ontario Government has offered a variety of supports to small businesses to help them recover after the operational restrictions are lifted. This will help them continue to survive and remain functional in the pandemic. 


One of the substantial aids offered by Ontario is The New Ontario Small Business Support Grant.


Under this, small businesses are eligible for a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 helping them weather the storm. If you are a business with less than 100 employees being required to restrict services due to the Provincewide Shutdown and have faced a 20 percent decline in revenue since April, you are eligible for this one-time grant that can be used as per your discretion.


A great way to utilize this grant is to train your staff and employees by getting them certified in health and safety. Having a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) in place is mandated by the law in Ontario and can be the difference between a safe and healthy workplace and a hostile one. At 4S Consulting we provide comprehensive training in health and safety recognized by the Ministry of Labor (MOL) from the comfort of your living room so that you can get certified without risking your safety.


Avail of the support in Ontario’s Action Plan


Under Ontario’s Action Plan of Protect, Support, and Recover, the government has issued additional measures to support businesses in their fight against the coronavirus. These include:


Additional tax exemption – The tax exemption for over 30,000 employees has been ramped up to $1 million making the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption permanent. The exempted tax can be reinjected into the economy by private employers to improve growth and jobs.


Lower utility costs – If you are a small business facing exorbitant energy costs to keep your business functional, Ontario allows you to claim a 15-16% reduction on an average on your electricity bill


Lower property tax – While the economy recovers, businesses that have faced a slowdown can claim a tax reduction of 30 percent on their business property.


Additional supports include one-time grants for PPE and relaxations for different sectors and industries. To know more, visit their website to see the different funding available for different businesses.


Avail for interest-free loans


One of the worst effects of the coronavirus has been substantial job losses so to support small businesses having trouble maintaining their workforce, there is something called a CEBA or a Canada Emergency Business account where you can avail of interest-free loans. The government has increased the cap of this loan from $40,000 to $60,000 to support small businesses and any business that has already availed of the $40,000 benefit can avail of a $20,000 expansion.


However, when it comes to the pandemic, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. With regulations being more stringent now more than ever, it is your responsibility as an employer to prevent the chances of an outbreak. Having a health and safety committee in place can help you do that. So if you are thinking about ways to utilize this money, training your staff and getting them certified with proper health and safety courses can be a great avenue for investment.


Avail an extension of the layoff-period


A business is a dynamic ecosystem that needs a constant supply of revenue to maintain its workforce but with the coronavirus and the regulations that followed, small businesses have observed a massive decline in revenue.


Suffice to say, most small businesses can’t maintain their workforce which has led to nationwide layoffs. Fortunately, if you are an employer you can avail yourself an extension of the layoff period cited in the Canada Labour Standards Regulations allowing you more time to recall laid-off employees.


This will help protect jobs in the private sector and allow you to ask your employees to come back once businesses open if they are still on the lookout for employment.


Avail of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)


This subsidy comes as a relief for most employers unable to pay wages to their employees amidst the pandemic. Under this subsidy, the government of Ontario will cover up to 75% of an employee’s wages for eligible employers. This subsidy allows small businesses to retain and re-hire their employees once the regulations are lifted and the business reopens.


Avail of the work-sharing program


The government of Ontario has extended the duration of the work-sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. Under this program, employees willing to reduce their normal work hours will be provided with income support allowing employers to maintain a bigger workforce at the same expense.


If you are a small business looking to retain your workforce without increasing your expenses, availing of the work-sharing program can be an excellent alternative to layoffs.


Avail of the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS)


The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy or CERS allows small businesses and brick and mortar stores to remain operational by providing rent and mortgage support directly to the tenants.


The subsidy can register up to a maximum amount of 65% of your total rent for businesses that can show a substantial rent loss and an additional top-up of 25% for businesses that have been affected and closed by the recent Province Lockdown issues by the government of Ontario.


Avail of the Main Street Relief Grant


If you have a business in Ontario, you are in luck because the government recently announced a grant to cover the costs of PPE for small businesses.


Under this grant, small businesses with 2 to 9 people can get a grant a one-time grant of up to $1000 for PPE in sectors such as retail, accommodation, food, repair, laundry, and fitness.


Avail of the Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Digital Subsidy


For businesses looking to hire once they reopen, a great alternative to hiring full-time employees can be to avail of the WIL Digital Subsidy plan.


Under this, the Information and Communications Technology Council will provide a subsidy of up to 70% of new hires’ salary in financial assistance if the business hires post-secondary students from a publicly funded Canadian post-secondary institution.


The students can be of any discipline and the subsidy can be clubbed with other wage subsidies and benefits provided by the provinces and territories.


Avail of the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund


For businesses that require more funding than what’s been offered so far to cope with the losses or maintain their operations, there is the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. RRRF as it is called offers over $1.5 billion in assistance with an additional top-up of $500 million bringing the overall to $2 billion for small businesses and communities.


The funding can be used for anything as long as there is sufficient reason behind it. With this, the government of Ontario plans to boost the economy and clear the trajectory for a steady recovery when businesses open.


Avail of the EDC Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP)


Another funding that small businesses can use to cover the costs of rent, payroll, and operations is the BCAP that has a corpus of $6.25 million to look after small businesses reeling under the pressure of Covid-19.


Avail of rebates for PPE


It is no surprise that businesses will start to open as soon as the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. However, the pandemic is far from over and maintaining health and safety in the workplace is of primordial importance.


Following the protocols issued by the Ministry of Labour and the government of Ontario can be a great place to start. However, the incurring costs of maintaining social distancing and PPE can be overbearing for small businesses which is why the government has given rebates to help with fixed costs of PPE and sanitization.


A health and safety committee can help you when it comes to maintaining proper sanitization and Covid-19 protocols in your workplace. A health and safety committee can ensure that your business is compliant with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Labour (MOL) and help you if a violation takes place. So a great way to utilize the funding now that you have some extra time is to get your employees certified in health and safety with a myriad of courses offered by 4S Consulting Services. 


The best part? We have pivoted all our courses online with a focus on self-learning so you can get certified with ease from the comfort of your home.


Claim tax credit on investment opportunities


After months of economic slowdown, the Ontario government is slowly injecting money into the commercial ecosystem to boost small businesses.


A great way of doing this is to cut down on taxes for businesses that are planning to expand or revamp their operations.


If you are a small business looking to renovate, you can claim a tax credit of up to $45000 yearly on your corporate income tax return.


A great way to prepare for reopening is to consider all the investment opportunities that you can save your taxes on by utilizing credit.


Make the POST Promise


The only way to battle the pandemic is to fight it together as a community and the only way that communities can survive is on the foundations of trust.


A great way to foster trust is by making the POST Promise – a self-declaration that your business is working to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. You can also display the POST Promise logo which is a symbol that your business is doing its fair share to ensure the safety of your customers. Not only can this improve your chances of avoiding a health and safety violation but it can also instill confidence in your customers and improve your bottom line.


When you make the POST promise you also get the tools and resources to educate employees on workplace safety at your disposal.


But more often than not, these resources are not holistic and comprehensive enough when it comes to workplace safety. A better approach is to get certified in different courses catered towards different sectors offered by 4S Consulting Services.


Conclusion


Not everyone has been affected the same in the pandemic. The consequences of restrictions and guidelines and the overall damage to the economy have been disastrous for small businesses. However, the restrictions will be lifted and things will take a turn for the better.


Our objective is to prepare you for a potential reopening by equipping you with the resources needed to survive in a post lockdown world. At 4S Consulting Services, we have a wide range of courses on health and safety at very affordable prices to help untangle the intricacies of running a business amidst a pandemic.


Get certified today with courses tailored around you from the comfort of your home with 4S Consulting Services.

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