Ontario COVID Business Support (2023): Updates to Grants, Loans, Wage Subsidies & More

Although the COVID pandemic is not affecting Canadians like it did in the recent past, your business may have participated in some of the loan, grant, and subsidy programs the government provided. Although such programs are no longer active, you may still have some responsibilities related to these programs, such as for loan payments.

Wading through all the active and inactive aspects of financial relief for businesses related to COVID can seem nearly impossible, especially when you are also trying to run a business.

  • Our advice: Don’t waste your time applying for benefits that are no longer available, or worrying about potential ramifications of these programs because you found some outdated information on the internet. (Trust us, there’s a lot of outdated information to find!)

We researched the latest – and accurate – information regarding COVID relief for small businesses, helping you figure out what programs may still apply to you.

COVID Business Grants

Business grants available to Ontario entrepreneurs related to COVID are no longer available. However, you may still have obligations related to the money you received via grant or loan.

RRRF Ontario Update 2023

The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, or RRRF, aimed to give businesses that had negative effects from the COVID pandemic some financial relief. FedDev Ontario delivered the fund’s proceeds to southern Ontario businesses. FedNor granted the fund’s proceeds to northern Ontario businesses.

Some of the funds may require a full repayment, while others are partially forgivable. If you received less than $40,000 in the loan from RRRF, repaying up to three-quarters of the amount before the end of 2023 allows for loan forgiveness of the remaining one-quarter. Additional forgiveness is potentially available for those who borrowed up to $60,000.

If you still have an outstanding balance on the loan on Jan. 1, 2024, the amount will convert to a fixed repayment schedule.

The RRRF Ontario fund is no longer active for new applications, as of mid-2021.

Ontario Small Business Support Grant Update 2023

The Ontario Small Business Support Grant aimed to help sole proprietorships and other small businesses that had to restrict their services or that had to close entirely during the pandemic.

Eligible businesses could request between $10,000 and $20,000 to help with potential losses. Businesses needed fewer than 100 employees and needed to show a revenue decline of at least 20 percent. The money does not require repayment, as long as the recipient did not misrepresent the business’ financial situation on the application.

Applications for the grant closed on March 31, 2021.

Ontario Small Business Relief Grant Update 2023

The Ontario Small Business Relief Grant provided a grant of up to $10,000 to small businesses forced to close or forced to remain closed during Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen in Ontario.

Entering Step Two required the province to have a certain percentage of residents vaccinated. It also required other health care indicators be at a certain level in Ontario. During Step Two, though, not all businesses were allowed to serve customers at normal levels.

Applications for the grant closed on March 11, 2022.

Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant Update 2023

The Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant allowed for payments to businesses that proved eligibility during the COVID pandemic. Ontario businesses related to the tourism and travel industry were potentially eligible for between $10,000 and $20,000 in funding.

The province aimed this grant at businesses that did not receive the Ontario Small Business Support Grant that we discussed earlier. Tourism-related businesses – such as hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, travel agencies, and more – had to show hardships and losses related to the COVID pandemic for eligibility.

Applications for the grant closed July 9, 2021.


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    Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program Update 2023

    The Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program provided funding to eligible businesses that had to close completely or had to operate at a reduced capacity during the COVID-related shutdowns and restrictions in the province.

    Depending on the level to which the business had to restrict customer or client capacity because of the COVID restrictions, the business could use the program to seek a rebate of 50 percent to 100 percent of costs for property taxes and energy costs.

    Applications for this rebate closed March 14, 2022.

    COVID Business Loans & Loan Guarantees

    Ontario and Canada offered multiple business loans to help entrepreneurs work through the financial hardships related to the COVID pandemic. Some of these loans require repayment, although you may be able to seek extensions or partial forgiveness.

    CEBA Loan Repayment Update 2023: CEBA Extension + New Grants

    The Canada Emergency Business Account, or CEBA, was a government-funded business loan to help businesses pay for expenses during COVID.

    Loan amounts up to $60,000 were available for an interest-free loan. The initial maximum amount for the loan was $40,000, but a CEBA expansion occurred in December 2020, providing another $20,000 for $60,000 total.

    The CEBA funds were available through more than 220 financial institutions throughout Canada. Applicants had to have a business chequing or operating account at an eligible financial institution to qualify.

    Applications for CEBA ended June 30, 2021. CEBA has no new funding available for small businesses in Ontario and Canada.

    Qualifying for CEBA Loan Partial Forgiveness

    The initial deadline for repaying the CEBA loan to qualify for partial loan forgiveness was Dec. 31, 2022. However, with the Omicron COVID surge in 2022, the repayment deadline moved to Dec. 31, 2023.

    A business did not have to take any steps to take advantage of this extension deadline, as long as the business that borrowed the money was in good standing with the loan at the end of 2022.

    If your business repays two-thirds of the loan amount by the end of 2023 deadline, you would be potentially eligible for forgiveness of the remaining one-third of the loan balance. For example, if you borrowed $60,000 and repaid $40,000 of it by the end of 2023, you would be eligible for forgiveness of the remaining $20,000.

    It is worth noting that any amount of your CEBA loan that qualifies for forgiveness is subject to income tax for the business.

    Any outstanding balance on the loan at the end of 2023 would automatically convert to a two-year term loan at a 5 percent interest rate. You then would pay the entirety of the balance in installments between Jan. 1, 2024, and Dec. 31, 2025.

    Repaying a CEBA Loan

    When repaying your CEBA loan, you will make payments to the financial institution that issued your particular loan. You will not make payments to the Ontario provincial government, to the Canadian federal government, or to the CEBA Program directly. Here are the options for paying back your CEBA loan through some of the major financial institutions in Ontario.

    • BMO: The best way to repay your CEBA loan at BMO is through its Online Banking for Business tool. You then can transfer money from your business account to the account for the loan.
    • CIBC: Sign up for CIBC online banking to make payments or to check the balance of your CEBA loan. You also can visit a CIBC bank branch.
    • RBC: Use the RBC mobile app, RBC online banking, telephone banking, an ATM, or visit a branch to repay your CEBA loan. RBC allows you to set up automatic transfers as well.
    • Scotiabank: Repay your Scotiabank CEBA loan through your online account with the bank.
    • TD: You can make CEBA loan payments at TD online, through recurring electronic withdrawals from your account, by an automated telephone service, by mail, or by visiting a local TD Bank.

    Potential Defaults for CEBA Loans

    Should your small business close or go bankrupt before you have a chance to repay the CEBA loan, you may have to pay the full amount immediately. However, you also may have some other options, depending on your circumstances.

    • Corporate bankruptcy: If you received your CEBA loan as a corporation, and if you later filed corporate bankruptcy, the financial institution cannot seek the remaining loan balance from your personal assets. The CEBA loan is treated like any other debt as part of the corporate bankruptcy process.
    • Personal guarantee: Some financial institutions required you to agree to a “personal guarantee” as part of your CEBA loan terms. If so, this means you are personally liable for the amount. If you are filing for corporate bankruptcy but have a personal guarantee on your CEBA loan, you may want to seek legal help to determine your best path forward.
    • Sole proprietorship: If you received your CEBA loan as a sole proprietor, no distinction between your personal finances and the business’ finances exists under this business structure. Consequently, you are liable for any outstanding balance on the CEBA loan through your personal assets. If you are considering filing bankruptcy personally as part of closing your sole proprietorship business, you may want to seek legal help regarding the CEBA loan.

    If you are struggling to repay your CEBA loan, and if you would like to change the terms of repayment, you unfortunately have no avenues through the CEBA Program. It stopped reviewing loans, including repayments on loans, at the time it stopped taking applications. You would have to contact the financial institution that issued the loan to you.

    Contact Information for CEBA Loan Questions

    If you have questions regarding your CEBA loan, you should reach out to the financial institution that issued the loan.

    You can call the CEBA Call Centre at 1-888-324-4201, but the Call Centre agents can only provide information about the status of the loan application and about the history of your application.

    Understand that you no longer can speak to an agent directly by calling the CEBA Call Centre. You can leave your phone number for a call back in the future. The Call Centre’s customer service options are reduced significantly, now that CEBA is no longer allowing new applications.

    HASCAP Update 2023

    The HASCAP, or Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program, involved a series of loans for small and medium-sized Canadian businesses. These loans required the business to use them to continue or to resume operations after pandemic-related restrictions, rather than using them to pay off other debts.

    If your business saw a decrease in revenues by at least 50 percent during the COVID pandemic or during any subsequent restrictions and shutdowns, you potentially were eligible for a HASCAP loan. These loans provided between $25,000 and $1 million to eligible businesses.

    Businesses received a 4 percent interest rate on the loan with repayment terms up to 10 years with a one-year deferment of payments after receiving the loan.

    The original deadline for applying for a HASCAP loan was June 20, 2021, but the federal government extended the deadline twice, first to Dec. 31, 2021, and then to March 31, 2022. No additional deadline extensions occurred, however.

    The Canadian government guaranteed HASCAP loans through the Business Development Bank of Canada, or BDC. However, you could seek a HASCAP loan through many different qualifying financial institutions, rather than having to only go through BDC. Both large and small financial institutions were able to offer HASCAP loans.

    HASCAP Alternatives: 9 Loan Guarantee Programs for Ontario Small Businesses

    With the HASCAP loan application process ended, you would need to take a different avenue to seek a guaranteed small business loan now. Some of your options include:

    BCAP Update 2023

    The Business Credit Availability Program, or BCAP, is a program from Export Development Canada, or EDC, to help businesses with their response to the COVID pandemic. Even through the EDC ran the program, businesses did not have to be involved in exporting to qualify.

    Businesses could apply for up to $6.25 million through the program from participating financial institutions. EDC would guarantee a percentage of the borrowed money, helping the business have a better chance of receiving approval for the loan. The BDC also supported the loan program.

    BCAP’s primary use case was to help with short-term liquidity problems that a business was having related to COVID shutdowns and slowdowns. It was designed to help the business sustain operational cash flows during the period of slower business activity.

    The federal government originally planned to end BCAP on June 7, 2021, but it extended it one time to Dec. 31, 2021.

    COVID Wage Subsidies for Business

    The Canadian government provided multiple programs aimed at helping businesses obtain funds for paying employees during the COVID pandemic.

    CEWS Update 2023

    The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, or CEWS, provided businesses with a subsidy to help eligible employers pay their eligible employees. Employers would be eligible to claim the wage subsidy during various four-week periods.

    Multiple types of businesses were eligible to claim the subsidy. They could receive up to 75 percent of employee wages in the subsidy. The subsidy could pay a maximum of $847 per week per employee, with no maximum amount per employer.

    Businesses had to show a decrease in revenue of at least 30 percent during any of the four-week periods because of problems related to COVID.

    Initially, the government approved the subsidy for three four-week periods from March 15, 2020, to June 6, 2020. However, through multiple extensions, businesses could continue to receive the subsidy during four-week periods through Nov. 30, 2021. The businesses had to reapply each period.

    CRHP Update 2023

    The Canada Recovery Hiring Program, or CRHP, provided a hiring subsidy to support employers during the COVID pandemic. It provided up to 50 percent of the incremental payroll of active employee wages when compared to a period prior to the start of the pandemic.

    Employers needed to show a drop in revenue of at least 10 percent because of issues related to business slowdowns during the COVID pandemic to qualify. Wages the business needed to pay related to new hires or any increased hours for existing employees were eligible for the subsidy, too.

    The Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, administered CHRP. Individual periods lasted four weeks, as the program ran from June 6, 2021, to May 7, 2022. Businesses then had 180 days from the end of any particular period to make a claim for the CHRP subsidy for that period.

    HHBRP Update 2023

    The Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program, or HHBRP, was a federal government program designed to help businesses with wage and rent subsidies when those businesses suffered a revenue decline during the COVID pandemic.

    HHBRP was designed for organizations that did not qualify for THRP, which we’ll discuss next. To qualify for HHBRP, businesses needed to show a revenue drop of at least 50 percent in any four-week claim period. Qualifying businesses could receive a subsidy of up to 50 percent for their eligible entities.

    If businesses did not qualify to receive subsidies in HHBRP, they could apply for support through the LLP, which we’ll discuss later.

    HHBRP ran for multiple four-week periods from Oct. 24, 2021, to May 7, 2022.

    THRP Update 2023

    The Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program, or THRP, provided wage and rent subsidies for businesses in the tourism sector that experienced revenue reductions from the COVID pandemic. Any businesses related to hospitality could apply for THRP subsidies, including:

    • Performing arts
    • Festivals
    • Live theaters
    • Hotels
    • Bed and breakfasts
    • Restaurants
    • Food trucks
    • Coffee shops
    • Bars
    • Tour operators

    To be eligible, businesses needed to show a revenue reduction in any claim period of at least 40 percent. Businesses that were facing capacity limits of at least 50 percent because of COVID restrictions also were able to potentially qualify. Businesses that did not qualify for THRP had the option of applying for subsidies through HHBRP.

    Businesses could receive wage and rent subsidies of up to 75 percent in any four-week claim period. THRP ran from Oct. 24, 2021, to May 7, 2022.

    LLP Update 2023

    The Local Lockdown Program, or LLP, was a temporary program offered during the Omicron surge during COVID, aimed at helping qualifying businesses receive financial subsidies. LLP served as an expansion to the HHBRP and THRP programs.

    When businesses were subject to local lockdowns from Dec. 19, 2021, to May 7, 2022, they could become eligible to receive funds through LLP. If local health regulations reduced a business’ allowable capacity by at least 50 percent, the business potentially could file an LLP claim for a subsidy.

    LLP operated over four-week periods during the aforementioned date range. If a business could show at least a 25 percent revenue reduction during a four-week period, it could be eligible to receive a subsidy on rent and payroll equal to the revenue reduction percentage up to 75 percent.

    LLP’s initial expiration date was March 12, 2022, but the government extended LLP once to May 7, 2022.

    TWS for Employers Update 2023

    The Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers, or TWS, gave employers an ability to reduce any payroll deductions they needed to send to the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA.

    From March 18, 2020, to June 19, 2020, the employer could claim a subsidy of 10 percent of the amount sent to the CRA. This amount could be up to $1,375 per eligible employee and up to $25,000 per eligible employer.

    Many different kinds of businesses were eligible for TWS, which ended June 19, 2020.

    COVID Rent Subsidies for Business

    Businesses that rent their locations were eligible for rent subsidies related to revenue reductions they may have had during the COVID pandemic.

    CERS Update 2023

    The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy program, or CERS, provided financial assistance for businesses on the costs associated with their business properties during the COVID pandemic.

    CERS involved both a lockdown subsidy and a revenue reduction subsidy. The business could use these subsidies for things like rent, property taxes, and interest on commercial mortgage loans.

    Businesses that could show revenue declines of at least 10 percent were eligible for CERS funds that replaced a portion of the business’ proven revenue decline over any of the four-week periods during which CERS was active.

    CERS started Nov. 23, 2020, and ended Oct. 23, 2021. After the conclusion of CERS, businesses still could apply for help through programs that we mentioned earlier, like HHBRP, LLP, and THRP.

    CECRA Update 2023

    The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, or CECRA, provided forgivable loans to help qualifying small businesses pay reduced rent during the COVID pandemic. This program focused on small businesses with less than $50,000 per month in gross rent that had business slowdowns or lockdowns related to COVID pandemic measures.

    The federal government gave the rent subsidy to landlords who reduced the rent payment for the small business by at least 75 percent. To qualify, the landlord could not defer the rent for the small business and had to agree to an eviction moratorium.

    The federal government then would provide the landlord with a forgivable loan that covered 50 percent of the gross rent amount.

    CECRA provided the financial subsidy to the landlord to whom the business pays rent, and the landlord then would reduce the required rent payment for the business. Although similar, CERS was a program that provided a financial subsidy directly to the business for rent payments.

    CECRA applied to rents starting in April 2020. The government closed CECRA to new applicants at the end of September 2020.

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