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A Further Update on COVID-19 – Developing a COVID-19 Response Plan and Additional Supports Available for Small Businesses

May 21, 2020
by Israel Foulon LLP


Since our May 19, 2020 E-Bulletin, the federal and provincial governments have made further announcements that impact businesses.

Best Practices for Re-Opening your Business

On May 19, the Province of Ontario entered into Stage One of a three phased plan to re-open the province for business. The plan gradually eases COVID-19 restrictions, permitting more businesses to reopen as it becomes safe to do so. As a matter of best practice, employers should consider implementing a detailed COVID-19 Response Plan that:

  • Clearly communicates health and safety measures to employees;
  • Educates employees on effective strategies to prevent the spread of the virus;
  • Provides information on how the employer is taking steps to protect employees;
  • Lists what steps an employee should take if they develop COVID-related symptoms; and
  • Outlines how the workplace will respond to a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.

Please feel free to contact Israel Foulon LLP for assistance with drafting and implementing COVID-19 Response Plans.

Ontario and Federal Government Recommend the Use of Non-Medical Masks where Appropriate

On May 20, 2020 Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, officially recommended Canadians wear non-medical face masks when maintaining a two-metre distance is not possible. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, also announced on May 20, 2020 that as people continue to enter public settings, they should be wearing non-medical masks when physical distancing is not possible.

Further, the Ontario Government has provided an up to date list of companies and associations that are ready to supply businesses with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).   The list may be accessed HERE.

Ontario Announces that Schools will Remain Closed Until September 2020

  • Employers must carefully consider requests for accommodation on the basis of child care and family status on a case-by-case basis and, where appropriate, accommodate employees to the point of undue hardship.
  • As restrictions on group gatherings are lifted and businesses re-open, employees with children at home should make reasonable attempts to arrange for alternative childcare arrangements if they are able to do so, which may include babysitters, childcare centres (once they reopen), and assistance from other family members, as appropriate.
  • We recommend that you seek legal advice with regard to specific accommodation requests.

Expanding the Eligibility Criteria for the Canadian Emergency Businesses Account (CEBA)

Prime Minister Trudeau has announced changes to the CEBA eligibility criteria. The changes ease the payroll criteria to provide small businesses with unique corporate structures access of up to $40,000 in interest-free loans to cover operating expenses during the pandemic. Twenty-five (25) percent of the loan is forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022.  Prior to this change, many sole proprietors, businesses that rely on independent contractors (as opposed to employees), and family owned businesses that pay workers through dividends (as opposed to through traditional employee payroll) were ineligible for this program.

To qualify under the expanded eligibility criteria, applicants with an annual 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; and
  • 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.

To access the full press release, CLICK HERE.

Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA)

CECRA will provide rent relief for eligible commercial property holders in the form of an unsecured forgivable loan to reduce rent owed by small business tenants. The program provides coverage for 75% of the gross rent payable by a small business tenant that has experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19.  CECRA for small businesses is available to property owners regardless of whether or not they hold a mortgage. Applications will be available as of May 25, 2020.

To qualify for CECRA, the commercial property owner must:

  • Own commercial real property that is occupied by one or more small business tenants;
  • Sign a legally binding rent reduction agreement for April, May and June 2020, that reduces an impacted tenant’s rent by at least 75%; and
  • Include a moratorium on eviction during the period in which the property owner is receiving funds from the program.

The Deadline to apply for CECRA is August 31, 2020.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation administers the fund and loans will be forgiven on December 31 2020, so long as an applicant complies with all terms and conditions of the program. This includes a prohibition on trying to recover forgiven rent amounts after the program has ended.

To qualify for the program, the Impacted Tenant will need to attest that it is experiencing and/or has experienced financial hardship evidenced by a decline in gross revenues of at least 70% from pre-COVID-19 revenues for the period April to June 2020.

To access full program details on CECRA, CLICK HERE.

Given the exceptional and unprecedented situation, we expect further developments in the coming days.

Israel Foulon’s Response to COVID-19

Israel Foulon is assessing the situation as it evolves, and is taking all necessary precautions within its workplace. To slow the spread of COVID-19 and for the health of our team and clients, absent extraordinary circumstances we are working remotely until further notice whenever possible. However, please be aware that our offices remain open and are fully functioning. In the circumstances, we encourage our clients to contact us by phone and email to the extent possible. Voicemail messages left at our office phone numbers are immediately forwarded via email. All messages will be promptly responded to. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our clients and would be more than happy to assist you with concerns regarding COVID-19 or any other employment or labour matters.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice, which in all circumstances must be tailored to the specific facts of any problem. You should obtain a proper legal consultation in order to determine how this article applies to your specific situation. Please feel free to contact Israel Foulon LLP to learn more at 416-640-1550.