Nova Scotia Business Owners That Pay Themselves Now Eligible for COVID-19 Government Support

Small business owners who run their operations without a payroll have convinced the Nova Scotia government they too should be eligible for a COVID-19 relief program aimed at bars, restaurants, performance halls, recreation facilities and gyms. The sector impact support program, offers between $2,500 and $7,500 to small operations in the province that are losing business as a result of stricter public health measures imposed in December. The amount businesses receive depends on the size of its payroll — or the amount of revenue normally coming in.

The revenue part of the equation was added after some business owners, particularly those who run their own operations, complained they would not be eligible despite being hurt by the smaller gatherings limits or other restrictions.

Nova Scotia Economic Development Minister Susan Corkum-Greek acknowledged that when the day applications opened for the aid. “We heard from such individuals, and that is why the eligibility is based either on minimum gross monthly payroll or a minimum gross monthly revenue,” said Corkum-Greek. “It does reflect a very quick response on the part of government to a gap.”

The minister acknowledged the money would not replace all the losses being suffered by small business owners and she noted that more help might be needed if the restrictions remained in place much longer. “We know the pandemic is not over,” she said. “What we can do is absolutely pledge to the business community. We’re going to continue to work with them. We want to understand the ongoing impacts to their operations and the government of Nova Scotia will be there to support them.”

In order to qualify for the aid, businesses must have had gross monthly payroll of at least $1,000 or gross monthly revenue of at least $2,500 for November 2021, but have gross revenue of $5 million or less in the most recently filed tax year. They must also be registered to do business in Nova Scotia and have an active Canada Revenue Agency business number. Corkum-Greek expected cheques to be delivered within a week or two of applications.

Source: MSN News

B.C. Businesses Must Re-Implement COVID-19 Safety Plans

Mandatory COVID-19 safety plans for businesses will return in B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on January 7. She said plans should include elements like barriers, reducing crowding and mixing of staff, working from home if possible and facilitating workers staying home if they are ill. As with the previous order, this does not apply to child care, post-secondary schools or the K-12 education system.

With school restarting for most B.C. kids on January 10, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said students and staff will be expected to complete a daily health check before going to school each day, and should stay home if they have any symptoms. “As public health has advised us, individual case management and contact tracing is no longer a helpful tool for us in tracking cases in schools.

We need a proxy to understand what may be happening with COVID in schools, and so that proxy will be school attendance,” said Whiteside. “Schools will be monitoring attendance rates closely and will notify public health and the school community if attendance dips notably below typical rates for this time of year. That will trigger a response from public health which may include investigation, it might include the use of rapid tests, to get a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground.” While individual case exposures will not be reported, Henry said, school communities will be notified in the case of outbreaks.

As more rapid tests arrive in the province, they will be deployed to settings including schools. Henry said, once available, they will be provided to symptomatic children to determine whether or not they should be going to school. However, Henry said the province has a limited supply of tests, making it important to use them where most appropriate to protect people or ensure they can go back to essential workplaces.

Source: Yahoo News

Ontario Businesses Want More Government Support Amid Latest COVID Shutdown

Ontario businesses were hit with another round of pandemic-related closures and capacity restrictions on January 5, but details of financial support remained scant as the measures took effect. Restaurants, gyms, cinemas and other indoor venues were forced to close while retail stores and personal care services were limited to half capacity in a government bid to rein in the rapidly spreading Omicron virus variant that’s caused infections and hospitalizations to skyrocket.

It’s a familiar routine now almost two years into the pandemic, particularly in Ontario where restrictions have been reintroduced repeatedly during virus surges. But the lack of immediate support this time around is “rage-inducing” for struggling business owners, said the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“It’s appalling that the provincial government has not announced immediate relief,” Dan Kelly, president of the organization, said in an interview. “Businesses are locked down today with hints of programs that have yet to be even designed.”

The Progressive Conservative government has announced $7.5 billion for a six-month interest-free period for businesses to make payments on provincial taxes. It has also promised an energy and property tax rebate of up to 100% of for businesses subject to closures and 50% for those under capacity limits, but the list of businesses eligible to apply won’t be available until an unspecified date later in January.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said that the province is also “exploring other options” for business supports, including grants for those affected by the latest shutdown measures. “This is Minister Bethlenfalvy’s number one focus,” Emily Hogeveensaid in an emailed statement. “More details will be released in the near future.”

The province has also called on the federal government to let businesses defer HST payments and bring in more worker supports. Kelly said he too would like to see more federal supports, and said he also wants the province bring back a program that offered business grants of $10,000 and $20,000. He said he’d also like to see the program expanded to include other businesses that weren’t eligible in the first round but took significant financial hits due to the shutdowns. That program came under scrutiny in a recent report from the province’s auditor general, who found hundreds of millions of dollars were doled out to ineligible businesses while others in need of support were excluded, due to flaws in the rushed program design.

Kelly said speed should take priority over perfection as many businesses are running out of financial and creative wiggle room to keep running two years in to the pandemic. “Frankly, time is of the essence,” he said. “Our choices are getting cash out to business owners, recognizing that a few may make get it that don’t qualify, or letting swaths of the Ontario business community permanently fail.”

Andrea Horwath, leader of the New Democrats, called for immediate business grants to cover payroll and rent, deferred HST payments and a commercial eviction ban to support small and medium-sized businesses through the latest round of restrictions. She also argued that problems with the earlier grant program should already have been sorted out to allow for swift support when new public health measures were introduced. “They could have actually learned their lessons from the previous program,” she said. “They didn’t do that.”

Toronto restaurant owner Ginger Robertson became emotional at the NDP news conference, where she discussed the shutdown’s impact on her staff and called for immediate financial support. “Having to tell your staff for the fourth time that they don’t have work is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and nothing that any of us should have to do at this point,” she said.

The province has said the latest restrictions will last at least 21 days, to be reassessed based on public health indicators at the time. Premier Doug Ford announced the latest measures — which also include provincewide school closures and halting all scheduled surgeries considered non-urgent — citing fears that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed by virus patients with few available staff to care for them.

Source: Global News

Quebec Businesses Oppose Vaccine Passport Requirements

Business owners say the Quebec government’s decision to expand the requirements of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination passport to include more retail services will hurt them. 

For Côte-des-Neiges barber Steve Victory, who named his shop Ghost Coiffure out of a playful fascination with the end of life, the fear that new COVID measures could spell the death of his business is no joke. “With this pandemic I have lost almost 75% of my business,” he told Global News. Quebec’s health minister Christian Dubé announced the new measure on January 6 and Victory fears the effect they will have. “I will lose even more business,” he said.

Business groups have also come out against the new measure. In a press release, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the mandatory vaccine passport in Quebec has already hurt many small and medium-sized businesses.

According to the document, 36% of companies reported a drop in sales, 35% had to spend more on staff and equipment to scan passports and 25% of merchants claimed they were abused by clients opposed to the vaccination mandate. The group’s Quebec vice president added that hiring more people to police the new measure will be challenging given the labour shortage. “A lot of employees have to stay at home because they have symptoms,” he argued.

The Quebec Retail Council agrees, saying the measure will simply put too many small enterprises at risk of closure. “Frankly we want the government to rethink it’s position and maybe come with another solution,” said the group’s general manager, Jean-Guy Coté.

No date has been announced yet for the implementation of the new measures.

Source: Global News

‘Short-Handed Every day:’ Businesses Face Widespread Labour Shortages

An intensifying labour shortage is rippling through the economy, forcing businesses to curtail operations, reduce hours and in some cases, euthanize livestock. The situation is a result of a chronic worker shortage worsened by the crush of new COVID-19 cases forcing many into isolation. School closures have also left some workers scrambling for child care and unable to go into work.

The result is rising employee shortages, prompting airlines to cancel flights, drugstores to close early, restaurants to shutter or move to takeout only and municipalities to warn of delayed waste collection. At a slaughterhouse in Quebec, the worker shortage became so extreme in recent days it opted to euthanize thousands of chickens that couldn’t be processed.

Exceldor Co-operative said in a statement that rising COVID-19 infections and a significant shortage of personnel have forced the company to resort to “humane euthanasia.” It blamed the protracted worker shortage on federal delays processing temporary foreign worker applications.

Meanwhile, some provinces have tried to ease staffing woes by shortening isolation periods, allowing people to return to work sooner. Yet the sheer number of new daily cases caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to leave many confined to their homes and businesses struggling to remain open.

Even those that remain open are facing a scheduling nightmare as mounting unplanned absences — on top of shifting public health restrictions — make operating difficult. “Omicron has resulted in more unplanned absences, not to mention complications from sudden government restrictions,” Retail Council of Canada spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen said. A surge of people unable to work and changing public health measures “throw schedules that were often planned weeks in advance upside down,” she added.

Some businesses have responded to the disruption by drafting new plans for how to operate during the latest wave, while some must alter hours or close altogether.

The Ballroom, a large entertainment venue in downtown Toronto, opted to shutter even before Ontario’s government-mandated closure. “People were calling in sick and it certainly made it challenging to schedule,” said director of operations Barry Taylor. “We were short-handed every day.” After previous lockdowns, he said he was only able to hire back about 40% of the venue’s staff. “We never fully recovered,” he said. “People won’t come back to this industry.”

The current COVID-19 wave is also causing staffing shortages at essential retailers and services. Halifax Regional Municipality, for example, warned of delayed waste collection in some areas due to “resourcing challenges as a result of COVID-19.”

Drugstore chain Jean Coutu said on its website some of its stores may need to modify hours to ensure essential services are maintained. Marie-Claude Bacon, a spokeswoman for Jean Coutu’s parent company Metro Inc., said the health and safety of employees and customers has been the company’s priority since the beginning of the pandemic. “As absenteeism has been fluctuating over the course of the last 20 months, we continue to make the necessary staffing adjustments as need be at store and (distribution centre) levels to minimize impact on our operations,” she wrote in an email.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said businesses that must close or cut back opening hours due to labour shortages may be eligible for support through various federal government lockdown programs, including the Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program “If they have a revenue fall, for whatever reason — and a shortage of workers could be that reason — they could be covered,” she told reporters on January 5.

Source: CTV News