Business supports: Steps for tenants

Friday, May 01, 2020
Federal and provincial COVID-19 financial aid programs have been released and are operational, although confusing. The Bronte Business Improvement Area (BIA) has compiled a list of 10 steps to help businesses remain viable until the economy can re-open. Property owners and tenants working together will be key to saving all businesses.
  1. Review your budget:
    • Do everything you can to keep from falling into arrears.
    • Identify your fixed costs like rent, insurance and utilities, and variable costs, like salaries, to understand exactly where you can cut costs
    • Check your credit card and bank statements for recurring charges. What about all those Apple apps or music subscriptions that you don’t need anymore? Look for duplication of expenses.
    • Prioritize what you really need to pay now and what can be deferred.
    • The Town of Oakville will accept late property tax payments, for both residential and commercial taxes, with no interest or late fees for up to two months.
    • There is a five-month relief period for Ontario businesses who are unable to file or remit select provincial taxes on time.
    • Employers can defer Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) payments for up to six months.
    • Ontario has increased the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption for 2020 from $490,000 to $1 million.
    • GST/HST payments due after March 27 and before June 1 are not due until June 30, 2020. But, if you’re expecting a refund, file and get those funds back.
  1. Do you qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?  Did you make more than $5,000 last year and are not working because of COVID-19? This applies to self-employed people as well as employees. This pays you $2,000/4 weeks for 16 weeks. It’s paid out very quickly; usually 2 – 3 days after applying.
  2. Talk to your financial institution. If you have a relationship with a bank, talk to your representative to see if you qualify for the Canada Emergency Business Account, an interest-free $40,000 loan to cover immediate fixed costs like rent and utilities.
  3. The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program for small businesses, in partnership with the provinces, has been announced, but not yet operational. More details are expected. This funding goes to landlords who can chose to pass it along to their tenants. Don’t rely on this to happen.
    • Call your landlord – don’t wait for them to call you – and have a conversation about how you can work together.
    • Send your landlord a letter outlining your situation in detail. Use this sample letter template from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
    • If you paid first and last months’ rent, ask your landlord to apply your last month’s rent to your current outstanding rent.
  1. Do you have employees that you’re still paying or would like to hire back? And, have you experienced at least a 15% drop in revenue in March and 30% in April and May due to COVID-19? Then you can apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). This will pay 75% of employees’ wages for up to 12 weeks. You have to re-apply every month as you may not qualify every month.
  2. File your taxes now or at least get all those receipts together for your accountant, especially if you have a refund. The filing deadline has been extended to June 1 and any balance owing is not due until September 1, 2020.
  3. If you decide you must close your business and declare bankruptcy, immediately remove your personal belongings from the property and contact a trustee in bankruptcy.
  4. Take advantage of ways to enhance your digital presence for free through Digital Main Street. This can include creating or updating your website, selling products online or marketing your business through social medial. Start small or go big! The Town of Oakville is funding two staff members to work one-on-one with businesses.
  5. Register for It’s a free, secure platform that enables your customers to make a donation to you immediately. The Town of Oakville supports and endorses the program.
  6. Get prepared to re-open. Keep watching the news and what’s happening in other provinces to learn what you may have to do to maintain social distancing and other health practices. The Province has release sector-specific guidelines for re-opening. This may include:
    • Plexiglass between you and your clients
    • Tape to mark off six-foot distances in your store
    • Stanchions to cue customers outside
    • Face masks and gloves for all staff
    • Hand sanitizer for staff and customers
    • Changes in store hours, delivery times and employee shifts
    • In the meantime, go into your business now to disinfect and change your window display to something fresh and full of hope.
Information provided by the Bronte Business Improvement Area (BIA).
Note: these suggestions are not considered legal advice; please consult professional advisers.