Find the Support Your Business Needs
A comprehensive library of the best COVID-19 information and resources for SMEs, critical business support programs available to you—and how to apply.
COVID-19 represents an enormous—often existential—challenge for Toronto’s small and medium-sized businesses like yours. Below we have aggregated resources, tools, and business support programs for SMEs in one place. Click the descriptions that apply to you and see what’s available.
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NEWS UPDATE: On January 4, 2021, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health issued a Letter of Instruction to those businesses currently permitted to operate under the Reopening Ontario Act, listing additional measures that must be implemented.
As of January 7, Toronto Public Health has been releasing the location of workplace outbreaks on a weekly basis in circumstances where there is evidence of sustained transmission and/or where a significant proportion of employees have been involved in an outbreak. Click here for more information.
UPDATE: As of Friday, July 16, 2021, the province has been in Step three of its Roadmap to Reopen . This includes but is not limited to:
- Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 100 people with limited exceptions;
- Indoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 25 people;
- Indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services permitted with physical distancing;
- Indoor dining permitted with no limits on the number of patrons per table with physical distancing and other restrictions still in effect;
- Indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities to open subject to a maximum 50 per cent capacity of the indoor space. Capacity for indoor spectators is 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is less. Capacity for outdoor spectators is 75 per cent of the usual seating capacity or 15,000 people, whichever is less;
- Indoor meeting and event spaces permitted to operate with physical distancing and other restrictions still in effect and capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity or 1,000 people, (whichever is less);
- Essential and non-essential retail with with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres;
- Personal care services, including services requiring the removal of a face covering, with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres;
- Museums, galleries, historic sites, aquariums, zoos, landmarks, botanical gardens, science centres, casinos/bingo halls, amusement parks, fairs and rural exhibitions, festivals, with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors;
- Concert venues, cinemas, and theatres permitted to operate at:
- up to 50 per cent capacity indoors or a maximum limit of 1,000 people for seated events (whichever is less)
- up to 75 per cent capacity outdoors or a maximum limit of 5,000 people for unseated events (whichever is less); and up to 75 per cent capacity outdoors or a maximum of 15,000 people for events with fixed seating (whichever is less).
- Real estate open houses with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres; and
- Indoor food or drink establishments where dance facilities are provided, including nightclubs and restobars, permitted up to 25 per cent capacity or up to a maximum limit of 250 people (whichever is less).
For more information, click here.
I Need Financial Support
Support for individuals or small business owners who have lost income due to COVID-19.
The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) can provide $500 a week for up to 26 weeks for individuals ineligible for EI. Click here for more details. Note: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) closed on September 26.
Click here to learn about changes to EI program, which includes sickness benefits.
BLG, a law firm, has also published information regarding changes to CERB and EI, and what employers and workers need to know. It can be accessed here.
Payroll support for struggling businesses.
On June 2, 2021, the federal government announced the new Canada Recovery Hiring Program, which would help hard hit businesses hire the workers they need to recover and grow as local economies reopen. The program would provide a subsidy of up to 50% of eligible salary or wages. It would be available to eligible employers who have experienced qualifying revenue declines so they can hire more workers, increase workers’ hours, or increase wages. Support would be available retroactively to Sunday, June 6, 2021, and businesses would be able to hire workers as their local economy reopens, or as they are ready. Click here for more info.
For businesses suffering a 15% or more decline in revenue because of the pandemic, the federal government is offering the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to subsidize up to 75% of employees’ wages, capped at $847/week for each employee and backdated to March 15, 2020. UPDATE: CEWS has been revised to pay out on a sliding scale based on revenue drops due to the pandemic, with the hardest-hit businesses eligible for a 25% increase to the previous maximum payment. Click here for more info.
The Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy is a three-month measure allowing eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deduction required to be remitted to the CRA.
The Talent Opportunities Program (TOP) is an initiative of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce designed to help employers located anywhere in Canada hire college and university students on work placements. Employers hiring eligible students may receive a wage subsidy up to 75 per cent (up to a maximum of $7,500) per placement.
Financing support for my business.
The Federal government has announced a series of initiatives intended to provide financial assistance to Canadian businesses during COVID 19.
The federal government is establishing a Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) to provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers in order to keep their operations going.
EDC offers an Investment Matching Program to businesses, including non-exporting companies. Please contact your EDC representative for more information.
The Canada Emergency Business Account* is providing interest-free loans for small businesses. This program provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs. UPDATE: Businesses and not-for-profits eligible for CEBA loans that continue to be seriously impacted by the pandemic are able to access an additional interest-free loan of up to $20,000. Half of this additional financing would be forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022. Click here for more info. UPDATE: As of October 26, CEBA is now also available to businesses operating using non-business banking accounts. Click here for more info.
The Ontario Small Business Support Grant supports small businesses that are required to close or severely restrict their operations due to the necessary Province wide Shutdown by providing a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000. Confirmed eligible recipients will automatically receive a second payment equal to the amount of their first payment, for minimum total support of $20,000 up to a maximum of $40,000. UPDATE: The program is no longer accepting applications as of April 8, 2021.
The new Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) offers 100% government guaranteed, low-interest loans of up to $1 million for businesses heavily affected by COVID-19 (up to $6.25 million for businesses with multiple locations), including those in sectors like tourism and hospitality, hotels, arts and entertainment. Businesses need to show a year-over-year revenue decline of at least 50% in three months, within the eight months prior to their application. They must also be able to show their financial institutions that they have previously applied for either the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy or the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy. You can start applying as early as February 1 at principal financial institutions and more widely by February 15. Click here for more info.
Export Development Canada’s (EDC) Loan Guarantee* program guarantees new operating credit and cash flow.
Additionally, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) launched a Co-Lending Program* with financial institutions to co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements.
*Small businesses and not-for-profits should contact their financial institution to apply for these loans.
Private sector financing.
Shopify is offering cash advances of $200 – 500,000 to its online merchants.
UPDATED: The Canada United Small Business Relief Fund, which granted up to $5000 to small businesses who were incurring unexpected costs related to COVID-19, is no longer accepting applications.
Support for rent.
The new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy provides direct rent support to tenants and support to property owners. It offer support to organizations that have suffered a revenue drop by subsidizing a percentage of their expenses up to a maximum of 65% of eligible expenses. Organizations are able to make claims retroactively for the period that began on September 27. The new Lockdown Support offers a top-up of 25% to organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order issued by a qualifying public health authority.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which offered to lower rent by 75% for small businesses affected by COVID-19, has now ended. You can find more information here.
Support for travel and tourism businesses.
The new Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant provides one‐time payments of $10,000 to $20,000 to support small tourism and travel businesses struggling to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will support small tourism and travel businesses that did not receive the Ontario Small Business Support Grant (OSBSG), such as travel agents, hotels, motels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts. To qualify, businesses must have fewer than 100 employees and demonstrate they have experienced a minimum 20% revenue decline between 2019 and 2020.
Support for food producers, agribusinesses and food processors.
Federal and Provincial governments have announced a number of financial assistance programs for the agri-food sector:
- Farm Credit Canada can help you manage the COVID-19 crisis through a new COVID-19 support program.
- The Agri-Food Open for E-Business initiative helps food producers, farmers markets, retailers, garden centres, greenhouses, nurseries, and agricultural associations develop online business.
- $252 million in assistance to Canadian farmers and others in the agri-food sector. The government intends to propose an additional $200 million in borrowing capacity for the sector. Click here for more information.
- Licensed meat processing plants are eligible for assistance to better protect employees and ensure the continued supply of products. Click here to learn more.
- $469.4 million in new measures to support Canada’s fish harvesters.
The Government of Canada has announced a $50 million fund to help all food production and processing employers in order to follow the mandatory 14-day isolation period required of all workers arriving from abroad.
Support for SMEs unable to access other resources.
The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) provides more than $962 million in financial contributions (interest-free loans) nationally to help support fixed operating costs of SMEs, where business revenues have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Support for companies helping the fight against COVID-19.
The Provincial government’s Ontario Together Fund of $50 million supports eligible companies to retool, build capacity or adopt the technological changes needed to produce supplies and equipment for hospitals, long-term care homes and other critical public service.
Support for charities and non-profit organizations.
The federal government has set up a $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund to help charities and non-profits.
Support for indigenous SMEs and Aboriginal Financial Institutions.
The federal government has announced $306.8 million in funding to help SMEs, and to support Aboriginal Financial Institutions that offer financing to these businesses.
Ontario is offering loans of up to $50,000 to Indigenous businesses that are either ineligible for, or unable to access, existing federal and provincial COVID-19 response initiatives for small businesses. Click here for more info.
Support for Black-led businesses.
The new National Ecosystem Fund announced by the federal government supports Black-led business owners and entrepreneurs access funding and capital, mentorship, financial planning services, and business training.
The Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund provides loans of between $25,000 and $250,000 for Black business owners and entrepreneurs.
Click here for more information.
Support for young entrepreneurs.
The federal government announced $20.1 million in support for Futurpreneur Canada to continue to support young entrepreneurs across Canada who are facing challenges due to COVID-19. Click here to learn more about Futurpreneur Canada.
Support for arts, culture, and sports sectors.
The federal government has announced $500 million of funding to establish a COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations.
Support for tech companies and start-ups.
BDC Capital, BDC’s investment arm, has launched the BDC Capital Bridge Financing Program which matches, with a convertible note, a current financing round being raised through qualified existing and/or new investors made into eligible Canadian start-ups.
Support for local manufacturers and supply chains.
The Ontario Made program, administered by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), and backed by the province, helps promote made-in-Ontario products.
- Manufacturers, retailers, other supply chain partners and consumers can be connected through SupportOntarioMade.ca
I need savings on my shipping costs.
UPS is currently offering an up-to 50% discount for its members. Learn more by visiting their website.
I Need Decision-Making Guidance
Where can I find up to date government COVID-19 response pages?
- You can access the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 response page here.
- You can access the Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 response page here.
- You can access the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 response page here.
I want to know more details about the Government of Ontario’s decision to close and re-open non-essential businesses.
The province has released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces.
The government of Ontario has announced that certain businesses and workplaces in Ontario are being allowed to reopen as long as they comply with strict public health measures (see the Ministry of Health’s Guidance Document for Essential Workplaces) and occupational health and safety requirements.
You can access the full list of sectors eligible to re-open published by the Government of Ontario here.
UPDATE: On November 3, 2020, the Ontario government released the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, which categorizes public health unit regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort. Each level outlines the types of public health and workplace safety measures for businesses and organizations.
You can also call the Government of Ontario’s toll-free line at 1-888-444-3659 to ask any questions about emergency orders.
I need access to Personal Protective Equipment as I reopen my business.
Ontario’s Main Street Relief Grant which offered up to $1,000 for eligible small businesses with two to nine employees to help offset the unexpected costs of personal protective equipment (PPE), is no longer accepting applications.
The Rapid Response Platform matches PPE suppliers with businesses who need it.
The federal government’s PPE Supply Hub brings together governmental and private sector sources of PPEs.
The Government of Ontario also maintains a PPE supplier directory.
Ontario’s Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program shares farmers’ cost to purchase PPE and do workplace modifications and other measures to improve health and safety for workers. Off-farm primary packing operations are also eligible. More details to come in the near future.
How can I prepare my business to safely open/re-open amid COVID-19?
The City of Toronto announced that wearing a mask or face covering is required in indoor public spaces as of July 7, 2020, under City of Toronto By-Law 541-2020. This means that, with some exceptions, all customers or visitors entering an indoor premise are required to wear a mask or face covering while inside. You can learn more about how this impacts your business here.
The City of Toronto has launched an online business licensing and permit application portal, allowing applicants requiring new licences or permits to fill out an application, submit documentation, and complete the payment online.
The Ontario government is providing free online health and safety training to make it easier for job seekers and workers to get essential qualifications, while practising physical distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Click here to learn more.
Toronto Public Health released a planning guide to help businesses reopen safely, including a risk assessment tool, a risk mitigation guide and links to an array of industry-specific support documents. You can access it here.
The Government of Ontario has released a guide on how to develop a COVID-19 workplace safety plan.
Click here to access various Ontario health and safety associations’ guidance documents for workplaces in various sectors operating during the pandemic.
The People Outside Safely Together (POST) Promise logo, endorsed by the federal government, is a nationally recognized symbol of a business’ commitment to doing their part to protect their customers’ and employees’ health and safety as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
How can I adapt my business strategy to reflect the impacts of COVID-19?
Ontario’s Tackling the Barriers website is accepting proposals for temporary changes to rules and regulations to support businesses facing challenges during the pandemic.
The Retail Council of Canada offers recovery planning resources for retailers, including retail recovery playbooks and checklists.
I need information and advice on tax and finance.
The BusinessTO Support Centre provides one-on-one virtual support to help businesses complete applications for Federal COVID-19 funding programs and get general business advice.
BLG released a comprehensive guide addressing important tax issues for businesses in a challenging economic environment. Click here to learn more.
I need resources on how to pivot to a digital strategy.
The Scale Up Institute’s Recovery Activation Program (RAP) offers an immersive, highly practical online workshop that helps you identify areas for digital overhaul so that your business can thrive in a changed business landscape. RAP’s cost is sponsored, and supports firms of any size across Ontario.
NOW LIVE: Take the RAP Digital Needs Assessment (DNA) for free. DNA is an online tool designed to give you a better understanding of the digital readiness of your business, benchmarked to your industry. It will provide you with a critical starting point for your digital transformation, and your gaps and opportunities.
Once complete, your company will receive your ‘DNA’ results and a follow-up email with a custom recommendation of the Recovery Activation Program service offering(s) that best meet the needs of your business.
Toronto’s Digital Main Street (DMS) program offers tools, resources, connections to trusted digital vendors, online learning and a Digital Service Squad who provide one-on-one virtual assistance.
I need help with staffing and HR during COVID-19.
The federal government has drastically reduced the time it takes for a temporary foreign worker to start a new job. Click here to learn more.
Ted Rogers School of Management has released an online resource to help organizations tackle the world of remote onboarding.
Odgers Berndtson’s Insights portal offers articles with insights relevant to businesses facing HR questions during the pandemic.
Deloitte’s recent publication, Workforce strategies for post-COVID-19 recovery, provides a framework for HR leaders to think through business continuity and recovery.
I Need Help with Taxes, Hydro Bills, and Other Government-Related Costs
I need help with my taxes.
The Ontario government increased the Employer Health Tax exemption from $490,000 to $1 million. The next adjustment due to inflation is expected to occur in 2029.
I need a break on my property taxes or hydro bill.
Ontario’s Property Tax and Energy Cost Rebates program allow businesses in areas categorized as “control” or “lockdown”, to receive rebates to help with fixed costs, such as property tax and energy bills.
The COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program for Small Business (CEAP-SB) offers a one time credit of up to $3000 to small businesses and charities to help them catch up on electricity and natural gas bills. Applications should be made through utility providers.
I Need Help Supporting My Employees
I have laid off employees as a result of COVID-19.
You are required to issue them a Record of Employment. Visit the Employment and Social Development Canada website.
The Government of Ontario is investing in UNITE HERE’s Virtual Action Centre, an online counselling and training portal, to support laid off and unemployed hospitality workers, and is helping apprentices by providing grants for tools, PPEs and clothing.
I am considering a work-sharing program for my employees.
I’m concerned about my employees’ mental and physical health during this crisis.
The Action Guide by Ellevate Network provides resources to help employees, managers and executives cope with work challenges posed by COVID-19.
Wellness Together Canada connects Canadians to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professionals for confidential chat sessions or phone calls and makes it easier to find credible information and help address mental health and substance use issues.
WellCan offers free well-being resources to help Canadians develop coping strategies and build resilience to help deal with uncertainty, mental health and substance abuse concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I need resources on how to promote a safe return to the workplace
The Provincial Antigen Screening Program provides free rapid testing kits to any open businesses that require staff to work on-site. The rapid antigen screening kits help screen for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 that might otherwise be missed.
Small businesses (those with 150 or fewer employees) located specifically in Toronto can pickup rapid screening test kits from any of four City of Toronto locations. For more information and to order an initial four-week supply of kits, please visit bot.com/rapidscreening.
The Toronto Financial District BIA has released a video showing what a return to office will look like in Toronto’s Financial District. Click here to watch the video.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade has also assembled a toolkit to help employers facilitate a safe return to the workplace. It can be found at the top of this page, or by clicking here.
I Need Help with Global Markets
I am an exporter/importer.
Export Development Canada (EDC) is providing critical COVID-19 information for exporters, including new financial supports available through EDC.
EDC is also providing advice to exporters for managing business risk through the crisis.
EDC’s updated Global Economic Outlook offers insight on challenges faced by Canadian exporters to help them make better business decisions during these challenging times.
The federal government is waiving tariffs on certain medical goods, including PPE such as masks and gloves.
Visit the following resource pages shared by the Federal Trade Commissioner’s website:
- Official Global Travel Advisory
- Travel restrictions, exemptions and advice
- Canada-U.S. border restrictions
- Customs notices
- Import and export
I am concerned about my global supply chain.
McCarthy Tetrault outlines solutions for stabilizing supply chains in this article.
Deloitte Canada offers insights on managing supply chain risk and disruption in this article.
I would like funding to support international market development activities.
Consider applying for CanExport SMEs funding, which can support up to 75% of your international market development activities. UPDATE: The program can now cover costs associated with entering international markets that have emerged due to COVID-19. E.g., developing e-commerce presence, attending virtual trade shows and paying for new international market requirements. Click here for more info. NOTE: Trading houses and export brokers of Canadian agri-food products are now eligible for the program; The CanExport team will now offer a Concierge Service to women-, indigenous-, and visible minorities-owned businesses in order to assist them in taking full advantage of the program.
UPDATE: CanExport SMEs initiated an administrative pause on June 12, 2021, and is no longer receiving new applications at this time. Details on when the program will resume are to be provided in the fall of 2021.