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Nova Scotia: 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia. 

COVID-19 Employer Assessment Tool – Can my business operate? 
The Government of Nova Scotia has made available an on-line tool to quickly help employers determine if they may remain open, in compliance with current workplace safety requirements. 

Commercial leases: rent deferral program

UPDATE TO THE TENANCY AND DISTRESS FOR RENT ACT

Effective March 31, 2020 at 6 a.m., landlords are not permitted to change locks or seize property of businesses who cannot pay rent, if the business closed directly because of COVID public health orders.

An updated copy of the Direction from Chuck Porter, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is available here

The government of Nova Scotia is encouraging landlords to defer rent payments for their commercial tenants for 3 months, spreading the deferred rent amount over the rest of the lease term.

  • If you’re deferring rent because your tenant’s business is shut down or significantly restricted by the Health Protection Act order, you could be eligible for coverage (up to a maximum of $50,000 per landlord and $15,000 per tenant) if you can’t recover the deferred rent.
  • To be eligible for the COVID-19 Small Business Rental Deferral Guarantee Program, landlords must register with the Department of Business by 3 April by emailing [email protected]. The rent deferral agreement must be in place by 1 April.

For more information read the COVID-19 Rent Deferral Support Program guidelines

You can use one of these forms to document the deferral agreement with your tenant.

Workers' compensation: deferred premiums

Workers’ compensation premiums are being deferred until July 2020. 

Information and updates on workers’ compensation issues related to COVID-19 can be found on the WCB website. You can find answers there to questions like: 

  • Are workers eligible for WCB benefits if they have COVID-19?
  • What happens if a worker files a claim?
  • Are quarantined or self-isolated workers eligible for benefits?
  • And much more.
Provincial Government: grants, loans, and loan deferral
  • Government will defer payments until June 30 for all government loans, including those under the Farm Loan Board, Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board, Jobs Fund, Nova Scotia Business Fund, Municipal Finance Corp. and Housing Nova Scotia.
  • Government will defer payments until June 30 for small business renewal fees, including business registration renewal fees and workers compensation premiums (a list of fees will be posted online early next week).
  • Changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, administered through credit unions, include deferring principal and interest payments until June 30, enhancing the program to make it easier for businesses to access credit up to $500,000, and for those who might not qualify for a loan, government will guarantee the first $100,000.
  • Small businesses which do business with the government will be paid within five days instead of the standard 30 days
  • NSBI has updated the Small Business Development Program to serve Nova Scotia businesses better. The program helps businesses work with a private consultant to overcome a pain point or barrier, or a business expert to help identify and develop the leadership skills needed to scale your company. 

Small Business Impact Grant

Through this new $20-million program, eligible small businesses and social enterprises will receive a grant of 15 per cent of their revenue from sales, either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000. This flexible, one-time, upfront grant can be used for any purpose necessary. Funding for program will come from a new $50 million fund administered by Dalhousie University.”

Business Navigators

Business Navigators are available to help Nova Scotia businesses with any questions they may have. They can be reached Monday to Friday, 8 am to 5 pm at 1-844-628-7347, 902-424-4475 or by email at [email protected] 

For more detailed information, please visit the Nova Scotia COVID-19 information page.

Measures for restaurants

Starting 30 March, restaurants can include alcohol purchases with take-out and delivery orders, as long as the alcohol cost is no more than 3 times the value of food ordered

Self-employed and employee Emergency Bridge Fund

Government is contributing $20 million to help self-employed people and laid-off workers who don’t qualify for Employment Insurance. Government will provide a one-time payment of $1,000 to bridge the gap between layoffs and closures and the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Funding for program will come from a new $50 million fund administered by Dalhousie University.

To apply for the bridge fund, please call 1-800-863-6582 to speak with a Canadian Red cross agent. 

More information on how to apply can be found here.

Employment Standards Requirements

If you need to lay off employees temporarily, there is no requirement to give or pay notice since the COVID-19 is a circumstance that could not be foreseen by an employer. 

Emergency Leave

If an employee cannot work because their employer has been ordered, under the Nova Scotia Health Protection Act, to close part − or all − of their operations, the employee would be entitled to emergency leave job protection.  This is one example of the application of the emergency leave provisions, there are other circumstances to which the provisions apply.  Employees are entitled to emergency leave for as long as they are unable to perform their work duties as a result of the emergency. Employees eligible for emergency leave must be permitted to return to their job once the emergency ends.  

Nova Scotia Government Tender Notices

Are you a business that can supply products and service in support of Nova Scotia’s response to COVID-19? If so, the provincial government would like to hear from you. A procurement portal has been developed and includes a list of products and services the provincial government is looking for. 

Changes to Registry of Joint Stock
  • All Registry of Joint Stock Company (RJSC) renewals due in March, April and May 2020 have been extended to June 30, 2020.  Name reservations, sole proprietorship and partnership registrations and annual renewals can be completed online.
  • Counter service is not available at this time.  The Business Registration Unit, located on 6 North in the Maritime Centre, 1505 Barrington Street, Halifax, will have a drop box in the building lobby for deliveries of documents for processing. Drop boxes are in place at Access Nova Scotia Centre locations in Yarmouth, Kentville, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Amherst, Stellarton and Sydney to receive RJSC deliveries and will be delivered to the Maritime Centre for processing.
  • During this period, scanned copies of originally signed documents or digitally signed documents where the digital signature information is clearly readable when the document is printed, will be accepted.  These scanned or digitally signed documents may be submitted via email to [email protected]
  • The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has issued updated information concerning the client identification rules, as well as taking affidavits and oaths with non-face-to-face means.
  • Emails containing a credit card number are automatically blocked for security reasons. Please provide a phone number of a contact person from whom to obtain the relevant credit card information to complete payment. Contact the Registry of Joint Stock Company (RJSC) directly at 902-424-7770 or 1-800-225-8227 with any questions.
Small Business COVID-19 Impact Grant and Small Business Credit and Support Program

Small Business COVID-19 Impact Grant

Eligible Small Businesses

  • Small businesses types ordered to cease or substantially curtail operations due to Covid 19 Order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (issued: March 24th, 2020) as identified below can access support through the new Small Business Covid 19 Impact Grant, including:
    • Restaurants with on site dining
    • Drinking establishments (such as bars, wineries, distillery tasting rooms and craft taprooms)
    • Personal care services (such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons, body art establishments)
    • Fitness establishments (such as gyms, yoga and Pilates studios, rock climbing establishments)
    • Unregulated health professionals (such as massage therapists, acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, Chinese medicine practitioners, other complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, podiatrists) 
    • Self-regulated health professionals (such as audiologists, chiropractors)
      • except physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses, dentists, and paramedics
    • Live, performing arts for audiences (such as live theatre, musical performances)
    • In-person trade show and exhibitions
  • Anticipated revenue loss for April 2020 of 30% or more per enterprise
  • Established before March 15, 2020 (if a new business is within 15 days of achieving first revenue from sales on this date, we may still be able to help, please apply)
  • Sole proprietorship, partnerships, corporations, societies, social enterprises, not for profits, charities in business, and other similar organizations
  • If incorporated, pays the small business corporate tax rate on income taxes (See: Income Tax Act)
  • Small businesses typically have fewer than 200 employees (February 2020)

Ineligible businesses and practitioners: 

  • Licensed childcare providers
  • Physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses, paramedics, dentists 
  • Golf courses 
  • Retail sales
  • Casino Nova Scotia
  • March Break Camps

COVID-19 Small Business Credit and Support Program

Nova Scotia has announced a new, temporary stream for access to credit, cash grants and support delivered through participating credit unions. The program will be available starting Wednesday, April 29.  To be eligible, small businesses must have a payroll less than $20,000 in the previous fiscal year and have experienced a decline in revenue from sales of at least 15 per cent in March or at least 30 per cent in April, May or June. Maximum loan amount is $25,000.  Upon approval, businesses will receive a grant up to $1,500 as well as a COVID-19 Business Continuity Voucher of up to $1,500 to help hire consultants for advice and support. The program is currently closed as government reviews applications. 

As part of the package of supports for small businesses, the province is working with post-secondary education partners to deliver education, training and guidance to small businesses. A centralized hub hosted by the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) will connect businesses to programs available from post-secondary institutions and other regional organizations. It will be available in early May, but you can get start getting answers now by emailing [email protected] or visiting the NSCC website

Halifax specific licensing adjustments
  1.  HRM doesn’t have a cut-off date for the acceptance of applications for sidewalk cafes. The only “regulatory date” stipulated is that construction cannot begin until the application is approved, which is on or after April 15th for Seasonal Sidewalk Cafes. The early April date was originally provided to businesses to help ensure that applications were processed in time to get construction approved by the April 15th date. We will accept applications at any time.
    1. Current status:
      1. Staff are reviewing and circulating applications for review.
      2. We are waiting on accepting payment as construction is not occurring at this time. By lining up the required approvals, construction can begin immediately once businesses are back up and running. 
  2.  Other Deadlines:
    1. Taxi and Dog licenses have been pushed ahead until August.
    2.  For Artisanal Vending licenses, the application date has passed (Jan. 16). For applications received after this date, it is “first come, first served” so HRM can prioritize the processing of applications already in the queue. 
    3. For food service vehicles, the by-law states March 31st as the due date for the inspection of vehicles. However, HRM has not strictly adhered to this date as it is up to the individual when they want to get up and running. 
Help ease the strain on the Halifax wastewater system – Do not flush gloves or wipes!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Halifax Water has seen a very large increase in the amount of disposable gloves and wipes in the wastewater (sewer) system. These items damage sewer systems, causing sewer backups into homes, businesses, apartments and other properties, and pose a potential health hazard. 

Halifax Water is asking business owners to help educate the public on this matter. Printable posters are available to be posted where clearly visible to the public.

For example: 

  • public and employee washrooms;
  • on product shelves where wipes, gloves and masks are sold;
  • on bulletin boards;
  • near checkouts; and 
  • outside near lineups.

There are several signs, all with the same message, so choose the ones that appeal to your business. Hanging different ones throughout your establishment can help draw attention and get the message across more effectively.

For more information, please visit Halifax Water.

Support for Aboriginal Businesses

The Ulnooweg Development Group has been providing loans and business support to Aboriginal businesses in Atlantic Canada since 1986. The group has announced two measures to help support Aboriginal businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • payment deferrals and interest relief on loans between April 1 and June 30, 2020, and
  • a one-time grant of up to $5,000 for consulting services to help entrepreneurs access and apply for federal and provincial COVID-19 business support programs.

Information on the support is available on the Ulnooweg site

Mental Health Resources

With Canada firmly in the grip of COVID-19, it is anything but business as usual.  Many businesses are closing their doors and laying off staff, others have employees refusing to come to work. We are all stressed and everyone is worried about their health and financial well-being.  Amidst this turbulence, you as a business leader are scrambling to keep your business afloat while leading your staff through these uncertain times.

Here are links to resources you can access if you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Nova Scotia

Federal

What is CFIB doing?

As we regularly communicate with the Nova Scotia government to get answers your questions, we are actively lobbying them to:

  • waive interest and penalty fees for any late/deferred property tax payments.

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 Centre to learn more.