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December 22, 2020

Your CFA Update on COVID-19

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Ontario Announces Provincewide Shutdown on December 26 at 12:01 a.m.

The Ontario government announced yesterday that it is imposing a Provincewide Shutdown, which will put additional restrictions in place and reinforce that Ontarians stay at home as much as possible to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. The Provincewide Shutdown will take effect as of Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and will remain in place for 14 days in Northern Ontario and 28 days in Southern Ontario.

The Provincewide Shutdown, which will temporarily replace the current COVID-19 Response Framework, will put in place time-limited public health and workplace safety measures similar to other jurisdictions. Measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
  • Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings - curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
  • Restricting indoor access to shopping malls - patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
  • Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only.

All Ontarians are advised to stay home as much as possible with trips outside the home limited to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, or supporting vulnerable community members.

Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home.

Full details on the Provincewide Shutdown measures can be found here.

The Ontario government will evaluate the Provincewide Shutdown measures and assess if they need to be revised and/or extended. This includes an assessment of a revised approach for operationalizing the safe reopening of retail.


Ontario Government announces new Ontario Small Business Support Grant

The Ontario government announced a new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small business owners impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown. The grant is intended to provide businesses with dollar-for-dollar funding to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the Provincewide Shutdown.

Small business required to close or restrict services under the Provincewide Shutdown will be able to apply for this one-time grant. Each small business will be able to use the support however it makes the most sense for their individual businesses (e.g. some business will need support to pay employee wages while others will need support for rent).

Essential businesses that are allowed to remain open will not be eligible for this grant.

Eligible small business include those that:

• Are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the Provincewide Shutdown effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020;

• Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and

• Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

Businesses must demonstrate they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20 per cent when comparing monthly revenue in April 2019 and April 2020. This time period was selected as it reflects the impact of public health measures in Spring 2020, and provides a representation of the possible impact of the Provincewide Shutdown on small businesses.

More information about the Ontario Small Business Support Grant is available here. Further details, including how to apply, will be announced in January 2021.

Ontario Property Tax and Energy Cost Rebates for Business

Businesses that are impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown will also be eligible for the property tax and energy cost rebates.

In November, the government launched a program to provide rebates to offset fixed costs such as property tax and energy bills for businesses that are required to shut down or significantly restrict services due to provincial public health measures.

These Ontario Small Business Support Grant rebates will continue to be available for businesses impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown and earlier restrictions.

Business can apply for the rebates here.

CRA posts names of companies that received the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) released the names of all companies that received the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy on Monday, and urged employees to report any suspicious activities related to the pandemic-relief program, which has paid out more than $54-billion since April.

The names are in a searchable online database. The information shows only the names of the companies. It does not indicate the amount of the subsidy, or when it was received.

The CRA also states that to protect the privacy of individuals, only the corporations will be identified.

To date, the agency says, more than 368,000 businesses, non-profits and charities in Canada have received the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

Immediately underneath the search tool, the CRA includes a link for Canadians to report suspected fraud.

Before the release of the database, the CEWS recipients that had been identified were mainly large public companies that revealed such information through routine disclosures of revenue and expenses.

A recent review of CEWS disclosures by the Financial Post found that at least 68 publicly-traded Canadian companies continued to pay out shareholder dividends while receiving the wage subsidy. The review found those companies got at least $1-billion in CEWS and paid out more than $5-billion in dividends.

The CEWS program was administered through the CRA so that it is easier for the federal government to audit businesses that received the subsidy. Those audits began in August 2020 but may ramp up depending on the number of news stories that result from the online database released Monday.

CFA Advice to Members

With the public release of CEWS recipients, media outlets may develop stories in the new year about large companies and well-known brands that received support under the CEWS. Many franchise systems are nationally and internationally recognizable brands and may become highlighted by the media in these kinds of stories.

These stories may fail to acknowledge that franchisee businesses are independently owned and operated by local small businesspeople. This could lead to the mistaken perception in the stories that franchisor corporate head offices are beneficiaries of the CEWS.

While the CFA is constantly working to educate and promote that franchisees are independent, local small business owners who live and work in their communities, there are still many people outside of franchising that do not fully understand the franchise business model.

The CFA recommends that franchisors work with their franchisees to proactively develop messaging and protocols in advance to help manage any media enquiries that might come in about the release of CEWS recipients in the weeks to come.

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COVID-19's impact on the world is creating waves across all sectors and industries.

Every member of the CFA community is dealing with an issue that is affecting the world, our industries, our communities, our businesses, and our people.

We would like to hear from you if you have any topics, issues or questions to navigate turbulent times in order to support you further: 


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