Weekly Digest – 3 March 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

Approval of AstraZeneca Vaccine Could Speed Up Mass Inoculation

The newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine increases the prospect of further accelerating Canada’s efforts to vaccinate the general population. Recommendations issued by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization stated that the third vaccine could be used to speed up vaccination for younger age groups, who otherwise would have to wait longer.

Canadian Small Businesses Collectively Owe $135 Billion

Seven in 10 small business owners have taken on debt due to COVID-19, according to the latest report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The average debt hits almost $170,000 per business, and they now owe a collective $135.1 billion as of early February.

Of the businesses that have taken on debt, 76% say it will take them over a year to repay.

If you have concerns about your business finances, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Proposed Increase Number of Weeks for Employment Insurance Regular Benefits

Minister Carla Qualtrough introduced Bill C-24, which increases the maximum number of weeks available to workers through Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits.

This should give them certainty should their job be affected by COVID-19. The proposed legislation would provide workers with up to a maximum of 50 weeks for claims that are established between 27 September 2020 and 25 September 2021.

Meanwhile, self-employed individuals who have opted into the EI program would be able to use a 2020 earnings threshold of $5,000, compared to the previous threshold of $7,555. This would be retroactive to claims established as of 3 January 2021 and would apply until 25 September 2021.

Canada-US Border Closed to Non-essential Travel Until at Least March 21

The border between Canada and the United States will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least until March 21, exactly one year after the border was first shut down to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The border has remained open for essential travel throughout the pandemic to avoid disruptions in the flow of food, medical supplies, and other crucial goods between Canada and the US.

Government Extends Access to COVID-19 Benefits

The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced the federal government’s intent to introduce amendments to increase the number of weeks of benefits available for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits.

The proposed changes include:

  • increase the number of weeks available under the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) by 12 weeks extending the maximum duration of the benefits through regulation from 26 weeks to up to 38 weeks;
  • increase the number of weeks available under the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) through regulation from the current 2 weeks to 4 weeks; and
  • increase the number of weeks of EI regular benefits available by up to 24 weeks to a maximum of 50 weeks through legislation, for claims that are made between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.

More information can be found here.

HASCAP Loan Applications Now Open

New loan applications from the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) have opened starting February 1.

Loans start at between $25,000 and $1 million for a single business depending on the size of the operation, and run up to $6.25 million for companies with multiple locations like a chain of hotels or restaurants. Interest rates are set at 4% across the board, terms will be up to 10 years, with up to a 12-month postponement of principal payments at the start of the loan.

To be eligible, companies will have to show a year-over-year revenue drop of at least 50% over three months, not necessarily consecutive, in the eight months before the application.

Further details can be found here.

Government Expands Canada Emergency Business Account Loans

Starting December, eligible businesses facing financial difficulties due to COVID-19 can access a second CEBA loan of up to $20,000 – on top of the initial $40,000 that was available to small businesses. Half of this additional financing, up to $10,000, will be forgivable if the loan is repaid by December 31, 2022.

Applications for CEBA have been extended to March 31, 2021. More information can be found here. Alternatively, if you have any questions or require assistance, simply drop us a message.

Government Support for Businesses

The federal government continues to enact measures to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic. Here are the available assistance you can take advantage of:

Wage Subsidies

  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) is intended to help businesses cover a portion of wages and keep employees on payroll. It continues until June 2021.
  • The work-sharing program allows employees whose hours got reduced by an average of 10% to 60% to claim employment insurance for lost wages. This has been extended to 76 weeks from 38.

Rent Relief

  • The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy provides rent and mortgage assistance until June 2021. Businesses can make claims retroactively for the period of Sept. 27 to Oct. 24, 2020.

Business Loans

  • The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) offers government-guaranteed bank loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses. The deadline for the application has been extended to March 31, 2021.
  • For mid-sized companies, the Business Development Bank of Canada’s mid-market financing program provides commercial loans between $12.5 million and $60 million.

Upcoming Key Dates

Below are the upcoming key payment and filing dates to take note of:

  • Your tax return for 2020 has to be filed on or before 30 April 2021.
  • For self-employed individuals, if you or your spouse or common-law partner carried on a business in 2020, your return for 2020 has to be filed by 15 June 2021. However, if you have a balance owing for 2020, you have to pay it on or before 30 April 2021.

Digital Payment Options Worth Considering

Digital payment methods are increasingly becoming relevant amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from the safety of contactless transactions, digital payments are undoubtedly more convenient.

Below are some payment methods that you can adopt for your small business:

  • PayPal– One of the most popular platforms for online payment, PayPal supports sending and receiving invoices and recurring transactions. It also offers PayPal Here credit card reader that you can install in your physical store.
  • Payoneer– A digital wallet that supports over 150 currencies, Payoneer is ideal for global transactions because of its low transaction fees and competitive conversion rates.
  • Google Pay– Google Pay is a platform that supports peer-to-peer transactions through mobile and offers an easy checkout process for online shopping. It is available in both iOS and Android, and can also be used via Gmail.
  • Shopify– It covers everything from ecommerce to secure mobile payments and POS systems. Shopify supports Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other popular payment methods.
  • Square– Square is an affordable option perfect for small businesses and startups. You can use it to set up an online store free of charge and sell from there. You can also use it as a store window and redirect customers to your own site. Aside from allowing payments through its mobile app, Square also offers credit card readers for in-person payments.

Get in touch

Contact us if you have any questions or want to discuss the next steps for your business.