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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.

4-Phase Plan to Reopen the Economy

Phase one (Begins May 6, 2020: The initiatives listed below are currently in place)

  • 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

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.

Additional details: able to meet with small number of people (no groups over 50+). Provincial Parks opening May 14, 2020.

 

Phase three (2-4 weeks after phase two, will begin anytime between June and Sept, 2020)

  • Camping resumes (, Discover Camping reservation system will open on May 25, 2020)
  • Hotels and Resorts (June 2020)
  • Parks – broader reopening, including some overnight camping (June 2020)
  • Film industry – beginning with domestic productions (June/July 2020)
  • Select entertainment – movies and symphony, but not large concerts (July 2020)
  • Post-secondary education – with mix of online and in-class (September 2020)
  • K-12 education – with only a partial return this school year (September 2020)

Additional details: camping at provincial parks and recreation sties will reopen June 1, 2020

 

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.

Support for businesses

Taxation Initiatives

Tax deferrals for your business:

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).
  • Postponing the tax on carbonated, sweetened beverages which was introduced in Budget 2020 is being until further notice.

 

Tax relief for your business:

The province has announced they will be reducing the Provincial Property tax (i.e. Provincial School Tax) for commercial and industrial properties (Class 4, 5 and 6). The average business will see a 25% reduction in their total property tax bill.

 

Sector Specific Initiatives

Support for agriculture and food/beverage producers: 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. Applications are now closed.

 

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. Until June 30, 2020 landlords cannot evict tenants or repossess goods/property due to non-payment of rent. See the provincial governments News Release here for more information.

     

     

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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.

    BC government orders

    There is currently no shutdown of non-essential services by the province. However, municipalities may have introduced additional measures. Please refer to your municipality's website to seek further detail.

    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
    • Employers must excuse workers for sickness without requiring a doctor’s note
    WorkSafe BC & Provincial Services (e.g. utilities, insurance)

    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 many industries, including a small business guide. 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.
    Employment Standards

    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 noe 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.

    The BC government has extended the temporary layoff period during COVID-19 from 13 weeks to 16 weeks. The employee must also agree to the extended layoff period. This change was made as of May 4, 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
    • Suspend WorkSafeBC premium collection for six months. Q1 payments have been deferred until June 30, 2020. We continue to advocate for Q2 payments to also be deferred.
    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.