CFIB calls on Ontario to build a plan to carefully reopen small business and expand the Small Business Support Grant

Thousands of small firms ineligible for critical support

Toronto, January 25, 2021 – Ontario’s lockdown measures are having a dramatic impact on the province’s small business community while many firms struggle to gain access to critical supports like the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, finds new data by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). As Ontario’s province-wide lockdown continues, CFIB is calling on the province to build a plan to carefully reopen small businesses while immediately expanding the grant to cover a much broader number of sectors.

“Only 37 per cent of Ontario small firms are fully open at this late stage in the pandemic,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “More of Ontario’s small business community is closed than any other province in Canada and officials have signalled that reopening may be months away. By contrast, 64 per cent of BC small businesses are fully open.” 

Last week, Manitoba was the latest province to announce plans to carefully reopen parts of the province’s economy, including allowing all retailers and some personal services firms like hair salons to operate with 25 per cent capacity.

"CFIB is not calling on the Ontario government to immediately end every business restriction, but we are urging the province to consult on ways to allow small firms to safely reopen,” added Kelly. 

% of small firms fully open 64% 60% 76% 45% 37% 44% 64% 80% 65% 50%

In addition, CFIB is calling on the government to make critical fixes to the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and other provincial programs.

“While the new program has been well-received by many small firms, it is only designed to include those businesses that were locked down by new rules that went into effect on December 26,” said Ryan Mallough, CFIB director of provincial affairs for Ontario. “Any business that has been locked down since spring of last year, and those still open but severely affected by the ‘stay at home’ order because of much lower customer traffic are not eligible.”

CFIB has been receiving many calls and messages from business owners not able to access the new grant, or the earlier provincial supports for property tax/energy rebates and PPE expenses. Examples of ineligible businesses and other gaps include:

  • Residential contractors who are not able to pursue new customers and are now out of work
  • Dry cleaners who have seen a dramatic drop in revenue due to recommendations and orders to employers to have their office staff work from home
  • Hotels and resorts that are allowed to remain open, but have experienced significant drops in business
  • Regulated and non-regulated health professionals 
  • Gyms that do not meet the April 2020 versus April 2019 revenue loss requirement due to the delayed effect of their revenue drop
  • “Affiliated enterprises” who together had more than 100 employees on April 30, 2019 are all ineligible 
  • Firms with fewer than two employees or more than nine and certain sectors that are ineligible for the $1,000 PPE grant

“To its credit, the Ontario government got many of the new grant program design details right, such as access for new and winter seasonal businesses that currently do not qualify for federal COVID-19 supports,” said Mallough. “However, it does not seem fair that the grant only helps those in some, but not all, of the lockdown periods, or those affected indirectly due to the ‘stay at home’ order.”

CFIB is proposing the following immediate changes:
1.    Announce plans to safely reopen the Ontario economy by allowing all locked down businesses to serve a small percentage of their regular capacity in person, under health and safety guidelines.
2.    Expand access to the Small Business Support Grant and the property tax/energy rebate program to business owners affected by other periods of business and consumer restrictions, including:

  • Businesses witnessing a drop in sales due to the “stay at home” order 
  • Businesses locked down since the beginning of the pandemic (e.g. amusement parks)
  • Businesses locked down in the spring of 2020

3.    Allow an alternative month or months to be used to determine the revenue decline for the Small Business Support Grant
4.    Increase the value of the PPE grant and expand the grant to all businesses under 100 employees, including sole proprietors
5.    Announce another round of funding for all support programs to help any businesses that remain locked down after February 10

“These fixes would go a long way towards helping more small businesses get to the other side of the pandemic,” said Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs for Ontario. “As CFIB has estimated that 75,000 Ontario businesses are at risk of permanent closure due solely to the pandemic, increasing access to provincial and other support programs and allowing small businesses a safe pathway to resume sales is absolutely critical.”

For media inquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every sector and region, including over 42,000 in Ontario. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at