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British Columbia: COVID-19 relief measures for your business

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.

BC Plan to Reopen the Economy

British Columbia and WorkSafe BC require all businesses to have an operational plan to ensure protection measures for workers are in place. Your plan should include an assessment of risk for potential spread of COVID-19 at the workplace, how measures to reduce the risk will be implemented, and how new policies and training will be communicated with staff. For your convenience, we've put together an operational plan for you to use that will help keep track of everything in one place. Download our Operational Plan by clicking here to get started!

Read from the drop-down below on the BC government's plan to reopen the economy, which was announced on May 6, 2020. Phase two began May 19, 2020, and Phase three began July 24, 2020. New closure orders were made during Phase three in September, 2020 - please read the drop down below to ensure your business has the most up to date information. 

4-Phase Plan to Reopen the Economy

Phase one (May 6, 2020)

  • Essential health and health services
  • Law enforcement, public safety, first responders and emergency response personnel
  • Vulnerable population service providers
  • Critical infrastructure, construction
  • Food and agriculture service providers
  • Industry and manufacturing
  • Sanitation
  • Communications and information technology
  • Financial institutions
  • K-12: online and in-class learning
  • Childcare for essential workers
  • Other non-essential service providers

 

Phase two (May 19, 2020):

  • Personal service establishments including: hair salons and barbers
  • Restaurants, cafes, and pubs (with sufficient distance measures put in place)*
  • Essential health and health services: elective surgeries allowed
  • Dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, and chiropractors
  • Physical therapy, speech therapy, and similar services
  • Retail sector
  • Gyms (all five Provincial Health Authorities have allowed gyms to reopen in Phase 2)
  • In person counselling
  • Parks, beaches, outdoor spaces, boat launches
  • Office-based worksites
  • Museums, art galleries, libraries 
  • Childcare

*As of June 11, 2020 the restriction on restaurants requiring them to operate at 50 per cent of regular capacity has been lifted. The new order requires restaurants to determine how many people they can serve while still maintaining a two-metre distancing between groups. The order also states that no more than six people in any party, and if a two-metre distance can't be maintained between tables, a Plexiglas partition should be installed. In addition, buffets and self-serve stations are allowed to operate as long as a handwashing facility or hand sanitizer is available within reach and there is proper signage asking customers to clean their hands.

 

If your business is included in Phase 2, please also visit WorkSafeBC's website here to determine any other additional guidelines or measures recommended for your business to consider.

 

Phase three (July 24, 2020)

Additional details: camping at provincial parks and recreation sites reopened June 1, 2020

New Order for Nightclubs and Banquet Halls: New orders from the PHO states that all nightclubs and banquet halls must close, effective September 8, 2020. See the BC Government's News Release here for more detail. The previous provincial health order by clicking here. which allowed Nightlife Venues to open July 22, 2020 is now no longer in effect.

New Order for Bars, Pubs, and Restaurants: A New order from the PHO states that all bars, pubs, and restaurants must stop serving liquor by 10:00pm, and close their doors and stop service entirely by 11:00pm unless providing a full meal service, in which case they may stay open, but may not serve liquor until 11 a.m. the following day.

 

Phase four (Only achieved when threat of COVID-19 has significantly diminished)

  • Activities requiring large gatherings, such as:
    • Conventions
    • Live audience professional sports
    • Concerts
  • International tourism

Additional details: opening dates for night clubs, casinos, and bars (liquor primary) has not yet be determined, industry associations are expected to develop safety standards to be reviewed by WorkSafeBC before guidelines are determined. 

Initiatives from the BC government

Read from the drop-down below about the initiatives the BC government is taking, including tax deferrals, property tax cuts, and more.

BC Economic Recovery Plan

On September 17, 2020 the BC government launched it's economic recovery plan which includes several initiatives dedicated to support business. Read below to learn about the initiatives and how they could help your business. You can also visit the BC Government's web page Supporting B.C. businesses to see a full list of all programs.

 

Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant

A new is available until March, 2021 (or until funding runs out) for businesses. Eligible businesses can receive up to $30,000, with an additional $10,000 top-up for tourism businesses. To apply, businesses must develop a recovery plan and get it approved by a professional appointed by the BC Government. Once you apply, you will be matched with a professional to either review an exiting plan or help your develop a recovery plan. Eligible businesses must:

  • have between 2 to 149 employees
  • experienced revenue loss of at least 70% during March 2020 and April 2020
  • continue to see revenue losses of at least 50% drop
  • been in operation for at least 3 years prior to March 10, 2020
  • be open (e.g. businesses closed due to a Provincial Health Order cannot apply until it is lifted)

The application portal can be found here.

 

Increased Employment Incentive: a tax credit on payroll

To encourage hiring, the BC government is offering a 15% tax credit on payroll for new hires in low to medium-wage jobs. The incentive can also be claimed on wage increases for current employees in low to medium-wage job positions. For the purpose of this incentive, the government defines "low to medium-wage jobs" as maximum weekly BC remuneration of $1,129.33. Businesses will be able to apply online in March 2021. Click here to see the BC government web page for more detail.

 

PST Rebate on Select Machinery and Equipment

Between September 17, 2020 and September 30, 2021, corporations can apply to receive a PST refund on qualifying machinery and equipment purchases. Applications will be accepts online starting April 1, 2021. For details on eligibility and qualifying purchases, see the BC government wage page for more detail.

COVID-19 support for businesses

Taxation Initiatives

Tax deferrals for your business:

The BC Government deferred several provincial tax filings and payments. Now, some due dates have been postponed even further. Taxes/costs coming due on September 30, 2020 include:

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

Employers required to pay installments for the Employer Health Tax in the 2020 calendar year will be able to defer the payments. The new installment due dates are as follows: 

  • First installment - December 31, 2020
  • Second installment - January 31, 2021
  • Third installment - February 28, 2021

The remaining tax payable is due with the employer health tax return by March 31, 2021.

For a full list of tax initiatives and tax-related changes, please see the BC Goverments web page here. 

 

The BC Government is also:

  • Delaying the increase of the Carbon Tax to April 1, 2020 (initially planned for April 1, 2020).
  • Postponing the tax on carbonated, sweetened beverages until April 1, 2020

 

Tax relief for your business:

The province has reduced the Provincial Property tax (i.e. Provincial School Tax) for commercial and industrial properties (Class 4, 5 and 6). The BC government is claiming the average business will see a 25% reduction in their total property tax bill for 2020.

 

Sector Specific Initiatives

Temporary wholesale pricing model for liquor licensees: The BC government introduced a new program which will run end of July, 2020 until March 31, 2021. The program allows hospitality licensees (including restaurants, bars and pubs) to purchase beer, wine and spirits at the wholesale price instead of the normal retail markup price set by the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB). 

Liquor manufacturers temporarily allowed to do direct delivery: Until March 31, 2021 (Thanks in part to CFIB advocacy, the program has been extended from the original expiry date of October 31, 2020!), liquor manufacturers are allowed to deliver products directly to individual consumers from their registered off-site storage facilities in addition to their on-site stores. See government news release here. 

Support for agriculture and food/beverage producers: Applications are now closed.. The BC government is investing $300,000 to support farmers, ranchers, and food and beverage processors market their products as locally grown, raised, harvested or produced. The money is available to help agribusinesses sell their products online, direct to consumers across the province. The funding offers financial support to access and develop websites, online sales, the costs of marketing, and shipping products to consumers. 

 

Payment deferrals

The BC government has also introduced payment deferrals for the following areas:

  • Liquor licenses: if your business has a liquor licence, you may request your licence renewal fee be deferred until September 30, 2020. Email [email protected] to request a deferral. 
  • Forestry sector: stumpage fees are being deferred for three months (introduced April 30, 2020, deferred until end of July)

 

Continued funding for certain sectors: 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.

 

Other Initiatives

Rent protection for commercial properties: On June 1, 2020 The BC government  announced eviction protection for small businesses. It is tied to the duration of the Federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. The program will run until the end of September.

     

     

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    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. 

     

    Financial Relief for employees & self-employed

    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. To be eligible, you must have been approved for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and have filed, or agree to file, a 2019 B.C. income tax return, along with other requirements. For a full list of eligibility details and to apply, please refer to the BC government webpage here
    How do I apply? The BC Emergency Benefit for Workers is a one-time payment that will be made in May 2020. Applications are open as of May 1, 2020.

     

    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.

    Provinicial Health Orders and Closures

    Click here to see the BC Governments Provincial Health Orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Should you have any questions about how any of the orders may impact your business, please call our Business Help Line at 1-888-234-2232.

    As of September 8, 2020, all banquet halls and nightclubs must close. See BC Government News Release here for detail.

    WorkSafe BC & Provincial Services (e.g. utilities, insurance)

    WorkSafe BC

    • Your business is able to defer Q1 & Q2 payments for 2020 until October 20, 2020 (i.e. the date when Q3 payments are due). Please note that you will still be required to report your payroll by certain dates. Learn more here.
    • WorkSafeBC has waived premiums on furloughed workers of employers receiving the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). This is retroactive to March 15, 2020 and will last the entirety of the CEWS program.
    • 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 many industries, including a small business guide. Read the guides here.

    Despite our consistent efforts urging the Minister of Labour not to, costly changes to the system at the height of the pandemic were made. To learn more about these changes and what they mean for your business, click 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:

    • If you've fallen behind on bill payments we encourage you to set up a flexible, catch-up payment plan by calling our customer service team at 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376).

     

    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.
    Employment Standards

    Temporary layoff period

    On May 4, 2020 the province initially extended the temporary layoff period during COVID-19 from 13 weeks to 16 weeks. Now (as of June 25, 2020) the province has further extended the temporary layoff period to 24 weeks, which will expire on Aug. 30, 2020. 

    If your business needs to extend a temporary layoff beyond August 30, 2020 due to COVID-19 reasons , you will need to apply for an extension through a BC government portal. You will need to inform the employee of your intention to apply, and have at least 50% of employees effected agree to the extended layoff. You can visit the government portal by clicking here. 

     

    Other provisions

    On March 23, 2020 the BC Government introduced a new Bill to the Employment Standards Act, which entitles employees to:

    • 3 unpaid days of sick leave, provided they have been employed for 90 days
    • an unpaid leave of absence in relation to COVID-19 if the employee has or is: been diagnosed with COVID-19, in quarantine or self-isolation, the employer has directed the employee not to work due to concern of COVID-19 exposure, providing care to someone who is sick or is a child, or prevented from returning to BC because of travel restrictions

    Please note that an employee is not requires to provide a medical note to their employer to take COVID-19 leave. However, as an employer you are allowed to ask the employee to provide reasonable evidence. This new protective leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020.

     

     

    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.
    • Temporary eviction restrictions for commercial tenants and provide guidance to commercial tenants and landlords on writing agreements to cover the COVID-19 crisis period. Success! On June 1, 2020 the BC Government introduced temporary eviction protection for businesses. See provincial News Release here.
    • 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.

    Revise 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. Success! On May 4, 2020, the BC government extended the temporary layoff period from 13 weeks in any 20-week period to 16 weeks, when the temporary layoff is due to COVID-19 related reasons.
    • 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. 
    Offer tax relief
    • Suspend collection of the Employers Health Tax for six months. Success! EHT payments deferred until September 30, 2020, along with other provincial taxes. As the new date to file and pay approaches quickly, we must recognize that business is not as usual. That's why we are continue to push the provincial government to make additional changes. We are asking the province to consider forgiving a portion of these taxes, or at the very least defer them for another 6 months and re-evaluate business' ability to pay them. Forcing businesses further into debt is not a viable option, which is why it is a priority to have the due date for these deferred taxes pushed forward. 
    • Suspend WorkSafeBC premium collection for six months.Q1 payments have been deferred until June 30, 2020, and Q2 payments have been deferred until October 20, 2020. See WCB News Release here.
    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.

    Do not add to the regulatory burden

    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.