Ontario Government Offers More Support for Small Businesses

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The Ontario government is partnering with the federal government to provide support for small businesses and commercial landlords affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The province is committing $241 million to the new Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA). The total amount of provincial-federal relief that would be provided is more than $900 million, helping to ensure small businesses are ready to reopen their doors when the emergency measures are lifted.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Parry Sound-Muskoka, so I am thrilled to see this assistance for our businesses,” said Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norman Miller. “I have been hearing from business owners just how worried they are about how they will make it until we can reopen the economy and this will help a great number of those businesses survive.”

Details of the new program were announced today by Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“The vast majority of Ontario’s small businesses and landlords are struggling during this extraordinary public health emergency,” said Premier Ford. “That’s why we are doing everything we can to support them through these tough economic times, so they can hit the ground running when we are in a position to open up the provincial economy. I want to thank the federal government for partnering with us to help our small businesses and commercial landlords. I look forward to working together to also provide much-needed support to residential renters ahead of May 1.”

The OCECRA will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners experiencing rent shortfalls because their small business tenants have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. To receive the loan, property owners will be required to reduce the rental costs of small business tenants for April to June 2020 by at least 75 per cent and commit to a moratorium on evictions for three months.

Partnering with the federal government on the OCECRA builds on Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, a series of cash flow supports amounting to $10 billion to help support jobs and the economy, including:

  • Doubling the Employer Health Tax exemption for 2020, cutting taxes by $355 million, benefiting roughly 57,000 employers;
  • Eliminating penalties and interest to businesses who miss filing or remittance deadlines for various provincially administered taxes for five months starting April 1, 2020, providing up to $6 billion in cashflow for about 100,000 Ontario businesses;
  • Postponing the planned property tax reassessment for 2021, providing stability for Ontario’s property taxpayers;
  • Deferring the upcoming quarterly (June 30) remittance of education property tax to school boards by 90 days, providing municipalities with the flexibility to, in turn, provide property tax deferrals of over $1.8 billion to local residents and businesses;
  • Implementing the new Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit for businesses that make eligible capital investments in designated regions of the province where employment growth has significantly lagged behind below the provincial average.

Ontario has also suspended time-of-use electricity rates for eligible small businesses, farm and residential time-of-use customers, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour, for 24 hours per day for 45 days. By switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50 per cent compared to on-peak rates.

“To help stop the spread of COVID-19, businesses have closed their doors and employees have stayed home and that has been working, but it has also created significant financial hardship,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “By subsidizing rent payments, reducing taxes, extending deadlines, and eliminating penalties and interest, we’re helping to ensure businesses can start up quickly when the time is right.”

On the same day this support was announced, Premier Ford indicated he will be releasing Ontario’s plans to reopen the economy next week. He stressed that reopening will be done slowly and carefully, and based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in order to reduce the chance of a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

“I look forward to seeing the framework,” said Miller. “This framework will help our businesses start to plan and will give us all a better understanding of what life is going to look like this summer and going forward until we have a vaccine.”

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