I've lost 100% of my income, but still have to pay all of my expenses.
Does that sound familiar?
It's a statement made by one Ontario business owner on the website SaveSmallBusiness.ca, which is running a petition calling on the Canadian government to mandate the "pause" of commercial rent for 3 months.
The reason is simple: government in many provinces have mandated the temporary closure of all non-essential businesses, effectively "pausing" businesses' revenue.
But if the government is forcing businesses to pause revenue, why doesn't the government also force the pausing of businesses' expenses?
Makes sense to me, and we'll see how government responds.
But in the meantime, what can you do to stay afloat?
Road Map for Surviving the Coronavirus Shutdown
The answer is to understand – and capitalize on – the financial programs and supports that are currently being rolled out.
In this comprehensive guide, I lay out a road map that you can use to get through these trying times, including programs offered by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, banks, utilities, and many more, as well as discounts and deals offered by businesses.
Here are the five steps in the road map (click a link to go directly to the section):
STEP #1: Use Government Coronavirus Support Programs
Your first step is to get help from the many programs that have been launched by the federal government and Ontario provincial government over the past month.
Here’s a breakdown of the programs:
Federal Government Coronavirus Programs
The new Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) was established to provide $65 billion of loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to be administered by Export Development Bank of Canada (EDC) and Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
You can see how the federal government is supporting business on this page: Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
Ontario Government Coronavirus Programs
In response to the pandemic, the Ontario provincial government announced a $17 billion plan called Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID‑19. Here’s what’s in it for business:
Employer Health Tax
Beer, Wine & Spirits Tax
Insurance Premium Tax
International Fuel Tax Agreement
Retail Sales Tax on Insurance Contracts and Benefit Plans
Race Tracks Tax
STEP #2: Reduce Expenses with Coronavirus Business Relief Programs
Your second step in surviving the business impact of the pandemic is to examine how you can immediately reduce expenses.
I’ve broken down some of the main categories of expenses below, along with how you can temporarily reduce or eliminate them:
Mortgage/Lease & Loan/Credit Card Expenses
Here are the main types of support you can get from the big banks:
(You might expect the banks to do something truly radical during a time of crisis and, say, temporarily reduce interest fees (which the federal government has apparently asked them to do).
Keep wishing! The only thing that seems to have changed is the banks are delaying interest rate and fee increases on their credit cards.
Here are links to the banks’ web pages on their coronavirus programs:
RBC coronavirus page
Scotiabank coronavirus page
TD coronavirus page
BMO coronavirus page
CIBC coronavirus page
National Bank coronavirus page
As with mortgages, this only applies if you own your business’s premises, but you could also use it if you own your home.
Check the website of your municipality to see if they are offering a property tax deferral. For example, the City of Toronto has deferred payments for residents and businesses for 60 days, and the City of Ottawa also has a deferral program.
Utility companies in Ontario seem to be offering support mainly through suspension of electricity disconnections and “flexible” payment plans.
Here are the COVID-19 pages for a few of the major utilities:
And don’t forget to check out the energy efficiency grants and rebates that some of the utilities are running separate from their coronavirus programs.
STEP #3: Find Coronavirus Business Discounts
There are a bunch of companies that have stepped up and offered discounts to businesses during these crazy times.
The website Notion.so has a continuously-updated list of business deals and discounts (some are U.S.-specific, but there are others that Canadian businesses can take advantage of).
STEP #4: Apply for “Regular” Grants
In addition to the extraordinary support programs that governments are implementing because of the pandemic, there are “regular” programs that have been running for years and are still available.
That’s the whole purpose of OntarioBusinessGrants.com – to promote the generous financial incentives that are available to Ontario businesses, year-in and year-out!
Here’s how you can educate yourself:
Check out the Grant Lists article on OntarioBusinessGrants.com that pertains to your business. The Grant Lists articles group together financial support for various audiences, by different organizations, and for various business purposes.
(To see the Grant Lists articles, look at the top menu of this page and mouse over “Grant Lists”.)
STEP #5: Grow and Streamline Your Business
If you have a small business that provides services, you might be able to grow your business and permanently reduce expenses during this crisis.
You can do so by doing a couple of things:
Increase your online marketing using special grants programs by tech companies
If you're one of the lucky business owners who has cash on hand, those lower rates could be an opportunity for you to grow your business.
Additionally, some of the big tech companies are offering free money to small businesses to advertise on their platforms:
Start a remote work set-up to reduce or eliminate office space costs
A prediction: some of the companies that operated out of office space before the coronavirus pandemic and moved to remote work will not go back to office space after the pandemic ends.
Because during the pandemic they’ll experience the many benefits (financial and otherwise) of remote work – and they’ll wonder why they rented office space in the first place!
Here are a few resources that you can use to set up remote work:
In this guide we've covered things you can do immediately to protect your business during the crisis:
- 1Use government support programs to pay wages and other variable costs
- 2Use relief programs to reduce or defer your monthly expenses
- 3Use discounts on products and services offered by some vendors
As well as the longer-term approach of applying for existing government grant programs.
What are you doing to weather this storm?
Ontario Provincial Government
Maurice (Moe) Muise learned the ins-and-outs of government while an employee of the Government of Canada in Ottawa for 10 years. His current focus is helping small businesses in Ontario to identify and maximize government grants to grow their business.
Click here to learn more about Moe’s background and how he can help your business.