The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. At the time of writing, there are 424 confirmed cases within Canada.
Last Friday and in subsequent announcements, the Government of Canada announced a $1 billion COVID-19 Response Fund that includes:
- $50 million to support the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19 communications and public education efforts.
- $500 million to the provinces and territories for critical health care system needs and to support mitigation efforts as needed.
- Waiving the mandatory one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits (for those eligible for EI benefits).
- Exploring additional measures to support other affected Canadians, including income support for those who are not eligible for EI sickness benefits.
- Enhancing the Work-Sharing Program to help support employers and their workers who are experiencing a downturn in business due to COVID-19, doubling the length of time that employers and workers are eligible to the program from 38 to 76 weeks, and streamlining processes so help can be accessed as soon as possible.
- $100 million to support federal public health measures such as enhanced surveillance, increased testing at the National Microbiology Laboratory, and ongoing support for preparedness in First Nations and Inuit communities. (This is in addition to an initial $50 million that was provided to support the immediate public health response.)
- $275 million to enhance Canada’s capacity in research and development, including research on medical countermeasures, including antivirals, vaccine development and support for clinical trials (in addition to the recent $27 million announcement to fund coronavirus research in Canada).
- $50 million to the Public Health Agency of Canada to support purchases of essential protective medical equipment by the provinces and territories, as well as to address federal needs.
- $50 million to support the efforts of the World Health Organization and other partners to address the worldwide outbreak and help more vulnerable countries prepare for and respond to the virus.
Credit Facility Program
- $10 billion will be available to SMEs through the Business Development Bank (BDC).
There are also a number of government programs currently in place to support business. They are:
- Work-Sharing Program - Temporary special measures
- Employment and Social Development Canada: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Export Development Canada: COVID-19
- Business Development Bank of Canada: Support for entrepreneurs impacted by coronavirus
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Resources for Canadian businesses
- COVID-19 subscription for public health updates
- What Canada’s Regional Development Agencies are doing to help business during the COVID-19 pandemic
- A dedicated COVID-19 tile has been added to the Canada Business App, providing links to government announcements and information for businesses
- ISED’s social media team remains available to support and to amplify regional content as appropriate
As you know, COVID-19 will significantly interfere with normal operations for business, the health care system and the health and well-being of people across Canada and around the world. According to feedback we received from members, the pandemic has also highlighted the fact that many small businesses do not have business continuity plans in place and need tools and resources to help them develop plans.
Where and when appropriate, we will continue to advocate for those policies and measures that businesses require to remain resilient in the face of this unprecedented public health crisis.
While the federal government has announced measures to support employers and employees, we will continue to provide support to businesses and represent their collective voice with government.
Recommended Policy Measures
- Based on input from our members, partner business associations and the broader Canadian business community, to date, we recommended the following measures for governments to implement to support Canadian business through this crisis and ensure a more effective recovery.
- Deferring tax deadlines, audits and payments (both for individuals and businesses) to both assist with short-term liquidity and allow them to focus on dealing with the pandemic.
- Offering flexibility on remittance payments (e.g. consider eliminating interest penalties).
- Reducing tariffs on essential goods and medical supplies needed to deal with the pandemic.
- Building upon previous announced measures to help affected businesses of all sizes access credit and capital swiftly.
- Helping businesses, SMEs particularly, pay furloughed employees and finance remote work options.
- Accelerating government payments owed to private sector and non-profit vendors.
- Postponing government consultations that are not germane to COVID-19 and place a moratorium on the introduction of new regulations and policies that are nonessential to avoid forcing businesses to divert their attention from dealing with the crisis at hand.
- Providing provisional extensions for temporary foreign workers already in Canada.
- Identifying and supporting front line workers for essential goods and services.
Ad-Hoc Group: Cross-Border Supply Chains
To minimize disruption to cross-border and international supply chains, we are working with the federal government, counterpart organizations around the world and at the International Chamber of Commerce to ensure continued access to, and the movement of goods and services across, our borders.
We are forming an ad-hoc group for members to discuss issues and concerns related to COVID-19 border measures and policies that might be introduced looking ahead. The first call for this group will take place Wednesday, March 18 at 3:00 p.m. ET and will be led by Mark Agnew, our Senior Director, International Policy, and Ryan Greer, our Senior Director, Transportation and Infrastructure.
If you would like to participate, please email Rebecca Derry.
We are hosting a teleconference this Thursday, March 19 at 1:00 p.m. ET to discuss the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide updates on what we are doing to support Canadian businesses. We have also invited experts from Deloitte, Dentons, Fragomen and the Insurance Bureau of Canada (TBC) to share their perspectives and answer your questions. This teleconference is for member chambers of commerce, boards of trade and associations.