I hope all our members and the wider Fernie community are keeping well. As we prepare our businesses and community to be ready for phase 3 of BC’s Restart Plan, there are a whole raft of new challenges facing our members. It was so tough to close our businesses, and its going to be even tougher re-opening. We acknowledge how much information (and mis-information) there is out there right now. The Fernie Chamber remains dedicated to helping our local business community through this extremely difficult time.
Last Friday and Saturday, I attended the BC Chamber of Commerce virtual AGM and policy debates on behalf of the Fernie business community. BC Premier John Horgan, BC Finance Minister Carole James, and Federal Minister of Small Business Mary Ng were among the keynote speakers. Again I am impressed with how closely the Chamber network is working with governments of all levels to support our local businesses. Government is listening to your concerns in real time and making adjustments to programs based on your recommendations. It is important that you keep feeding us your challenges, your obstacles, your best practices and your re-opening plans – so we can identify the gaps and opportunities. Business will continue to need ongoing support well into the fall and winter, and your needs will change as we move through phases.
The theme of the AGM was #unityandcommunity and its a message I want to share with all of you. These next few months will be challenging as we all navigate the “new normal”. Each of us will have different comfort levels in regards to the reanimation and re-opening of our town – and that’s ok. I know all our business members are going above and beyond to keep us all safe, and we genuinely appreciate the level of effort and expenditure to get it right in such trying times. Support local. Be kind to people – regardless of where they are from or why they are here. Let’s be the model of what re-opening a welcoming and safe border town can look like. This summer is all about #unityandcommunity
To that end, I want to reiterate how helpful it will be for your business to compare notes with others in your industry. While I realize you’re competitors, creating a consistent expectation and experience within each sector will go a long way to building that safe, welcoming vibe that will instill consumer confidence and spending.
Updates on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
– The federal government announced the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) through to August 29, 2020. They are signalling that further information on the program will be coming soon.
– Eligible businesses will receive a 75% wage subsidy for eligible employees to a maximum weekly payment of $847 per employee.
– The Canadian Chamber’s Canadian Business Resilience Network website has a great step-by-step guide on how to calculate the subsidy and prepare to apply here.
– Yesterday, WorkSafeBC announced they are waiving premiums for employers who are approved to receive the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for furloughed workers (employees on leave with full or partial pay).
– The Chamber network continues to monitor this and expects that this program will need to be extended even further into the future to support business.
– The federal government is seeking direct feedback from businesses on this program by clicking here.
Updates on the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)
There is now new eligibility criteria for CEBA thanks in part to strong advocacy on this issue by the Chamber network. Sole proprietors and small businesses using contract employees were previously excluded from this program because they didn’t meet payroll criteria. These businesses can now apply for the $40,000 loan, with possible forgiveness of $10,000 if paid back before December 31, 2022.
Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Account (CECRA)
Applications are now open for the CECRA through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. It offers unsecured, forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to reduce the rent owed by their impacted small business tenants, and to meet operating expenses on commercial properties
Property owners must offer a minimum of a 75% rent reduction for the months of April, May and June 2020. As part of your application, you must provide rent reduction agreement(s) and landlord and tenant attestations.
We encourage all eligible commercial property owners to participate in this program. Even if your tenant has been making rent payments to date through the crisis, the data gathered from BC Chamber’s MindReader platform indicates most small businesses in the province only have 30 days of cash flow left. A lease agreement is a partnership, and it is in the best interest of the landlord to ensure their tenant’s business can make it through this.
We recognize there are problems with this program – mainly that the ball is in the landlord’s court, not the tenant. Our network continues to monitor this program and is very interested in your feedback.
A new online portal called the Rapid Response Platform (RRP Canada) has been setup and is free to use. It provides a matchmaking service to ‘connect the dots’ between manufacturers and businesses in need of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE products on the Rapid Response Platform include hand sanitizer, surgical masks, N95 masks, surface sanitizer, face shields and gowns. Any Canadian businesses involved in the COVID-related PPE supply chain, and businesses that need to source PPE, are encouraged to register now at RRPCanada.org.
The CRA has extended deadlines for T2 Corporate Income Tax Returns and T3 Trust Income Tax Returns that had been due in June, July or August. Those returns are now due September 1, 2020. As previously announced by CRA, any income tax balance due on or after March 18 and before September 1 is also now due by September 1, 2020.
A new phone line has been launched called the Business Resilience Service (BRS). The BRS is a hotline small businesses, not-for-profits and charities can call for free tax and accounting advice to help them navigate the pandemic. Advisors can answer questions about tax regulations and implications amid COVID-19, what government support programs best fit their circumstances as well as strategic considerations to support their recovery planning. Organizations can get help by calling 1-866-989-1080. More information.
I want to stress how important the three links above are to our local businesses. Use these resources above all else as you guide your organization through the restart phases. There is so much great information that you can use right away. The Fernie Chamber continues to work exceptionally hard to support you at this critical stage. Call or email us anytime with questions. We have one shot at getting this re-opening and recovery right, and to instill welcoming and safe consumer confidence.
Stay safe and stay strong,
Brad Parsell – Executive Director
250 423 6868