Weekly Update – 23 June 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Update. Read on for the latest news!

Canada-US Border Closure Extended Until at Least 21 July

Despite the mounting pressure to reopen the Canada-US border, the government has announced that the closure will be extended until at least 21 July. Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he hopes “in the coming weeks” to announce loosened travel restrictions at the border, the decision will still depend on the trajectory of COVID-19.

International Travel Restrictions Easing for the Fully Vaccinated

Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents will be allowed to enter Canada without undergoing quarantine starting 11:59 p.m. ET on 5 July. This comes as many Canadian provinces have hit key vaccination targets, with more than 75% of eligible Canadians having received at least one dose and over 20% having received two.

Those entering will need to show documents proving they received doses of vaccines approved in Canada at least 14 days prior to entering the country. They must electronically submit COVID-19-related information to the government’s ArriveCAN app before arriving, meet the pre- and on-arrival test requirements, be asymptomatic and have a suitable quarantine plan, according to CBC.

Importance of Small Businesses Highlighted at CanadianSME Small Business Expo

The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade highlighted the government’s continued support for SMEs and considered small businesses as the backbone of the Canadian economy that will play a crucial role in the country’s recovery. The Minister joined 1,500 business owners, organizations and industry leaders from across the country on Monday to kick off CanadianSME’s Small Business Expo 2021.

She also noted the need to support small businesses and cited the $4-billion investment to create the Canada Digital Adoption Program that the government announced in Budget 2021.

Government Announces $4 Million Support For Indigenous Food And Agriculture Initiatives

Investments of over $4 million for 16 projects that will help support Indigenous food systems initiatives, provide equitable access to healthy food, and increase participation of under-represented groups in the agriculture and agri-food sector have been announced.

These projects, announced through the Indigenous Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative and the AgriDiversity Program, build on previous federal support of $2.1 million.

Skilled Trades Training

The government of Canada announced funding of nearly $890,000 for the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades in order to support the implementation of online learning. This investment is intended to help develop a highly qualified skilled trades workforce, and prepare Canadians to fill available jobs as our economy restarts.

Government Encourages Businesses to Apply for Free Rapid Testing

The government is encouraging businesses and organisations to apply for free rapid tests for workplace screening projects. Rapid tests will be available to employers through:

  • Shoppers Drug Mart locations in COVID-19 hot spots in Ontario for small- and medium-sized enterprises;
  • The Canadian Chamber of Commerce will enable local chambers to distribute rapid tests to smaller organizations, based on the successful StaySafe Rapid Testing Program in Waterloo Region;
  • Non-profit, charitable and Indigenous community organizations can pre-register now to access rapid tests through the Canadian Red Cross;
  • Since April, larger organizations with close-contact employees have been able to request rapid tests directly through a new federal portal; and
  • More federal workplaces where workers are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 can launch workplace screening programs using rapid tests.

Alberta Expands Financial Support Program to SMEs

Alberta is expanding its Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant to include another payment of up to $10,000 for eligible businesses. This marks the third time the $10,000 payment has been made available to Alberta organizations. It will also be available to businesses that started operating between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.

The Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant offers financial assistance to Alberta businesses that experienced at least a 30% decline in revenue because they were ordered to shut down or limit operations due to COVID-19.

Government Extends Access to COVID-19 Benefits

Legislation enacted in March 2021 extends and expands the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits.

The amendments include:

  • Extension of the maximum duration of CRB and the CRCB to 38 weeks (from 26 weeks)
  • Extension of the CRSB to four weeks (from two weeks)
  • Extension of the EI regular benefits so they’re available to a maximum of 50 weeks (from 26 weeks) for claims that are made between 27 September 2020 and 25 September 2021.

Self-employed individuals who have opted into the EI program will now be able to use a 2020 earnings threshold of $5,000 (previously $7,555). This change is retroactive for claims as of 3 January 2021 and applies until 25 September 2021.

More information can be found here.

HASCAP Loan Applications Now Open

Loan applications from the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) opened February 1.

Loans start at between $25,000 and $1 million for a single business depending on the size of the operation, and run up to $6.25 million for companies with multiple locations like a chain of hotels or restaurants. Interest rates are set at 4% across the board, terms will be up to 10 years, with up to a 12-month postponement of principal payments at the start of the loan.

To be eligible, companies will have to show a year-over-year revenue drop of at least 50% over three months, not necessarily consecutive, in the eight months before the application.

Further details can be found here.

Canada Emergency Business Account Deadline Extended

Eligible businesses facing financial difficulties due to COVID-19 can access a second CEBA loan of up to $60,000 with up to $20,000 of that being forgivable.

CEBA has two streams of eligibility: the Payroll stream and the Non-Deferrable Expense stream. If you previously received a loan of up to $40,000, you can apply for the CEBA expansion to increase your loan by an additional $20,000 ($10,000 of which is forgivable if repaid before Dec 31, 2022).

Applications for CEBA have been extended to June 30, 2021. More information can be found here. Alternatively, if you have any questions or require assistance, simply drop us a message.

Government Support for Businesses

The federal government continues to enact measures to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic. Here is an overview of the assistance you may be able to take advantage of:

Wage Subsidies

  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) is intended to help businesses cover a portion of wages and keep employees on payroll. It continues until June 2021.
  • The work-sharing program allows employees whose hours got reduced by an average of 10% to 60% to claim employment insurance for lost wages. This has been extended to 76 weeks from 38.

Rent Relief

  • The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy provides rent and mortgage assistance until June 2021. Businesses can make claims retroactively for the period of Sept. 27 to Oct. 24, 2020.

Business Loans

  • The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) offers government-guaranteed bank loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses. The deadline for the application has been extended to March 31, 2021.
  • For mid-sized companies, the Business Development Bank of Canada’s mid-market financing program provides commercial loans between $12.5 million and $60 million.

Five Strategies For Building Customer Loyalty

Gaining customer loyalty can add significant value to your business. However, small businesses encounter challenges when it comes to keeping their customers. This Forbes article shares some effective strategies to acquire loyal customers.

  • Know the values of your brand. Use effective marketing strategies to commercialise your brand and communicate your values in the initial phases.
  • Offer excellent customer service. Create a good first impression to build a sense of trust among the customers.
  • Establish a loyalty program. Start a loyalty program to prove to customers how much they matter to your business. You can set up a points system and offer coupons or purchase cards.
  • Take customer feedback seriously. Both good and bad customer feedback is crucial. If you’re not receiving any, start asking for feedback from your customers and implement valid suggestions.
  • Create an online community. Social media is a vital aspect of modern businesses, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So encourage your customers to follow your social media pages and create engaging content, including those that increase transparency in your business.

Returning customers are more likely to spend more into your business. So if you need some expert guidance on how to run your business better, book a one-on-one consultation with us today!

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