Ontario Announces Financial Support Measure for Businesses Affected by COVID Restrictions

The Ford government announced new economic support measures on Wednesday for businesses affected by the latest round of pandemic restrictions put in place to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

The new ‘Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program’ will give eligible businesses rebate payments that are equal to 50 percent of the property tax and energy costs they incur while the latest restrictions remain in effect.

The province is also introducing a six-month “interest-and penalty-free period” for affected businesses to make payments for most provincially administered taxes. The Ford government says the measure will provide $7.5 billion in relief to “approximately 80,000 Ontario businesses.”

“Ontario businesses have already contributed so much to the province’s fight against COVID-19,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. “We recognize that these necessary capacity limits to reduce the transmission of the virus will impact businesses, and that’s why we are introducing these new supports.”

The new rebate program will launch in mid-January and the province says eligible businesses will include restaurants, smaller retail stores and gyms. The province also says a full list of who is eligible will be released with the program guide in the new year.

Applications will open in mid-January and payments for those eligible will be made retroactive to Dec. 19, 2021, the day the new restrictions took effect.

The interest and penalty-free period will begin at the start of 2022 and continue to the end of June. Eligible businesses will have the option of delaying payments on the following provincially administered taxes:

  • Employer Health Tax
  • Beer, Wine & Spirits Taxes
  • Tobacco Tax
  • Insurance Premium Tax
  • Fuel Tax
  • International Fuel Tax Agreement
  • Gas Tax
  • Retail Sales Tax on Insurance Contracts & Benefit Plans
  • Mining Tax
  • Race Tracks Tax

The President of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce said the new announcement from the Ford government is welcome news, but the group feels more urgency is required.

“Missing today were measures like an extension of the small business grant that would have provided immediate relief,” said Rocco Rossi. “Timeliness of when these supports are delivered is critical.”

“Our concern is whether these measures will be sufficient to prevent a wave of business closures. For example, applications for the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program will not open until mid-January. This delay – along with the limited eligibility of the rebate to energy and property taxes – may not be enough for many small businesses to keep their doors open.”

The Opposition NDP, meanwhile, suggested Ford’s plan was “insulting.”

“Businesses asked for help. What they’re getting today from Doug Ford is a slap in the face,” said finance critic Catherine Fife. “Any small, local business that desperately needs support will be gone by the time their property tax bill comes due for 2022 – some may even be gone by the time applications open in mid-January.”

The province announced further restrictions on capacity and social gathering limits on Friday to combat surging COVID-19 cases brought on by the Omicron variant.

The new rules went into effect on Sunday and bring a 50 percent capacity limit to most indoor settings, including restaurants, bars, personal care services, gyms, and most retailers.

Businesses used for weddings, funerals and religious services are exempt from the capacity restrictions.

The new measures also limit the hours of operations for bars and restaurants to 11 p.m., although they are permitted to remain open for takeout. The sale of alcohol is now restricted after 10 p.m. and consumption of alcohol in businesses after 11 p.m.

The Canadian Federal of Independent Businesses (CFIB) recently asked governments to exercise caution when considering new restrictions on businesses. The group requested that new limits be made as a last resort and for governments to ensure any measures were accompanied by a new round of supports.

The federal government also announced Wednesday it was temporarily expanding eligibility for two COVID-19 benefit programs to aid those affected by newly imposed capacity limits.

The province’s COVID-19 science advisory table called for “circuit breaker” measures last week and revealed that new infections could reach 10,000 a day by January if contacts are not cut by 50 percent.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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