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British Columbia: COVID-19 relief measures for your business

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We know that this is a difficult time, full of uncertainty. The information you need to run your business changes rapidly, and it can be hard to keep track and make sense of it all.  

In order to relieve some of the pressure on small businesses such as yours, we are gathering all the information you need about government services and supports in British Columbia and putting it in this one location. We will continue working with governments to ensure additional relief measures become available for your business as the situation evolves.

Please check back regularly. We will update this page as more information becomes available. 

Closures

Consult our guide to learn which businesses are currently closed in British Columbia.

Support for businesses

The BC Government is deferring many provincial tax filings to Sept 30, 2020. This is effective as of March 23, 2020, and means the deadline  to file and pay for the following taxes has been extended. They include:

  • Employer Health Tax
  • Provincial Sales Tax
  • Carbon tax
  • Motor fuel tax
  • Tobacco tax

The BC Government is also delaying the increase of the Carbon Tax to Sept 30, 2020 (initially planned for April 1, 2020), and cutting the Provincial Property tax (i.e. Provincial School Tax) rate in half this year for commercial and industrial properties (Class 4, 5 and 6). The latter is especially important, as it is a tax cut and will translate into meaningful savings for your business if you are responsible for paying property taxes (e.g. own the property or are on a triple net lease). 

To support non-profits, service delivery agencies, and childcare providers, BC will continue to fund these agencies regardless of if they are open, closed or regular operations have been disrupted in any way. Licensed childcare providers staying open will receive enhanced funding to keep operations going. They will be eligible for seven times their average monthly operating funding from government.

The tax on carbonated, sweetened beverages which was introduced in Budget 2020 is being postponed until further notice.

To see the BC Government's webpage on new COVID-19 support initiatives for businesses, click here.

For information on Federal and Provincial initiatives to support small business, please refer to this online guide provided by the Province of BC. 

The BC government has issued guidelines for Retail, Food, and Grocery stores in the province. Please refer to the BC Ministry of Health Guide here for best practices to ensure your business is following the correct measures to manage and contain the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Support for employees

BC Emergency Benefit for Workers: The BC government has introduced a one-time, tax free payment of $1,000 to BC workers whose work has been affected by COVID-19. It’s available for those applying to Federal programs (Including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit) as a result of COVID-19. This payment is also available for non-EI eligible workers (qualifications include employees who have been or are: laid off, self-employed, self-quarantined, taking care of someone who is sick and taking care of child due to childcare closures). 
How do I apply? The BC Emergency Benefit for Workers is a one-time payment that will be made in May 2020. Applications are not yet open, however you can subscribe to the BC Government Emergency Benefit for Workers webpage here to receive updates on eligibility requirements.

BC Climate Action Tax Credit: The BC government has enhanced payment of the BC Climate Action Tax Credit. They estimate 86% of families will see more money back in their pockets to a maximum of $218 for adults and $64 per child. Once you have filed tax returns, and are determined to be eligible for this, you will see the benefit. 
How do I apply? The additional one-time payment will be made in July 2020 on top of the regular credit amount for qualifying individuals and families. You are eligible to receive the credit if you are a resident of BC, and you are 19 years or older, have a spouse or common-law partner, or are a parent who resides with your child. You will recieve the credit payment from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). For more information, click here.

Ongoing changes for you and your business

There is currently no shutdown of non-essential services by the province. However, certain municipalities have put in their own closure measures. CFIB is doing their best to track that, please see below for your municipal details and follow up with your municipality themselves to confirm. 

The province of BC has mandated:

  • There will be no gatherings of 50+ people at a place of which a person is the owner, occupier, or operator 
  • Construction sites are still allowed to be open, but with no more than 50 people in same space
  • Personal service establishments (e.g. nail salons, tattoo parlours, barbershops, beauty parlours, health spas and massage parlours) must close
  • Employers must excuse workers for sickness without requiring a doctor’s note
  • Businesses with liquor primary licenses e.g. bars, pubs, nightclubs) must close. If you are a liquor primary establish who also have a restaurant license, this is a grey area. Enforcement for this is on a case by case basis

Other important information

Provincial Services:

Worksafe BC

  • WorkSafe BC has put together a guide for employers on preventing exposure of COVID-19 in the workplace. Read the guide here.
  • WorkSafe BC has complied health and safety information guides for Construction, Manufacturing, and Retail businesses. Read the guides here.
  • Q1 payments for 2020 have been postponed. Businesses that report payroll and make payments on a quarterly basis can defer payments without penalty until June 30, 2020 (instead of the usual date of April 20). Learn more here.
  • WorkSafe BC is asking that anyone needing to speak with claims staff do so in writing instead of by telephone during the pandemic. Learn more here.

Service BC 

  • Centres are remaining open for now. 
  • Vulnerable citizens (e.g. seniors and people with underlying health conditions) will receive priority service during the first hour of business. 
  • Call your local Service BC centre to make an appointment.

BC Hydro

The following announcement was made April 1, 2020. See the BC Government News Release here. We are awaiting on further details on definitions and necessary applications.

  • Small businesses that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months, from April to June, 2020
  • BC Hydro is offering an option of a three-month deferment to larger businesses
  • Universal one per cent rate reduction for all customers starting April 1, 2020

The following announcements have also been made by BC Hydro:

  • Walk-in customer service desks are temporarily closed now.
  •  A “COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program” has been introduced which provides both residential and commercial customers the ability to defer bill payments or arrange flexible payment plans with no penalty. Call customer service to discuss: 1 800 224 9376
  • For the next 90 days, disconnections have been suspended. Please note, some customers have reported receiving fake calls threatening disconnection from fake BC Hydro employees. This is a scam.

ICBC

  • Deferrals have been extended to up to 90 days.
  • People dealing with job loss, illness, or loss of wages due to COVID-19 may now also qualify for BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund grant program and receive up to $600.

 
Municipal actions:

We are doing are best to keep this up to date with the latest updates from municipal governments in BC. In addition to the information below, we advise you to contact your municipality directly to understand the full implications of policy and social changes issued by the municipality. 

Vancouver

  • Gatherings of 50+ people are not permitted.
  • Restaurants must cease dine-in operations. Takeout and delivery are the only permitted operations.  
  • Bylaw enforcement officers are paroling Vancouver.
  • Businesses are subject to fines up to $50,000 if found in non-compliance with emergency measures.
  • The City has issued a 60-day grace period for property tax payments. 

What is CFIB doing?

While this is a good start, we know there is much more the BC government can do to support your business. We are asking the government to: 

Provide liquidity from fixed business costs

  • Suspend B.C. Hydro billing for a period of three to six months for businesses of all size
  • Cover property taxes for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis (a minimum of 25 percent overall reduction in annual property tax, including Class 1, 4, 5, and 6, for commercial property owners and owners of purpose-built rental with 3 or more units). Relief should be passed onto commercial tenants by landlords. In addition, the government should institute temporary eviction restrictions for commercial tenants and provide guidance to commercial tenants and landlords on writing agreements to cover the COVID-19 crisis period
  • Government should provide additional COVID-19 crisis assistance to cover fixed costs as circumstances warrant
  • Create a hardship fund with additional emergency money for businesses with significant revenue losses, significant cost increases and/or who are at risk of permanent closure due to COVID-19 (up to $5,000 per month for 3 months) to help small businesses pay rent and offset other fixed costs. Priority should be given to businesses that were forced to close and those not covered by federal programs.

On March 30, 2020 cfib provided recommendations for federal and provincial action in this area. See our News Release here.

Employment measures

  • Ensure that employment standards cover the COVID-19 period, work with federal programs, and do not inadvertently create additional costs and stress for employers. If an employer cannot top up the 75 percent federal wage subsidy to 100 percent, that should not be considered constructive dismissal for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. 
  • Provide an on-line training grant to individuals idled as a result of COVID-19. This has the benefit of making use of downtime to enhance skill sets that will contribute to B.C.’s economic recovery once the current crisis abates.
  • Create some additional assurance for businesses, such as a new form of unpaid leave, e.g. A Public Health Emergency Leave. It should cover the period of disruption due to COVID-19 and clarify employers will not be subject to constructive dismissal claims that meet the criteria of a COVID-related layoff. The allowance for “unforeseen circumstances” under the Employment Standards Act likely provides the basis for such leaves, but the business community requires legal certainty on this matter. 

Tax relief

  • Suspend collection of the Employers Health Tax for six months (Success! EHT payments deferred until September 30, 2020)
  • Suspend WorkSafeBC premium collection for six months (Q1 payments have been deferred until June 30, 2020. We would like to see Q2 payments deferred as well)

Prompt government payment to vendors

Expedite payments to vendors owed by the provincial government and its Agencies, Boards and Commissions. For example, the provincial government was recently apprised of lagging payments to contractors working on the Site C Clean Energy project. Concerted provincial government efforts to expedite payments for services rendered are a tangible way that government and its statutory bodies can assist with acute cash flow issues being faced by many B.C. businesses.

Policy Reviews

Suspend any new regulatory, policy and legislative initiatives and related consultations until further notice and ensure that any measures in the “policy pipeline” support economic resiliency and post-crisis economic recovery effort.

FAQ on COVID-19

We’re dedicated to supporting your business through this difficult time by compiling answers to the most common COVID-19 questions and keeping you up to date on the latest relief measures from the federal government. Visit our Small Business Help Center to learn more.