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November 12, 2020

Manitoba's Critical (red) pandemic response and government supports for businesses

On November 10, the provincial government announced that the entire province is to go under the tightest level of restrictions since spring. Manitoba chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin indicated that in order to see the effects of the new measures, restrictions will be in effect for four weeks, which would be two incubation periods of the virus.

Effective November 12, the new measures implemented under the Critical (red) level include:

  • Limiting social contacts to members of the household. Social gatherings are not permitted, and gatherings of more than 5 people from outside a single household will be subject to fines.
  • Prohibiting all social gatherings; Restricting travel to and from northern Manitoba is restricted and discouraging non-essential travel;
  • Limiting the activities of non-critical retail businesses to e-service, curbside pickup or delivery services;
  • Closing of all personal service businesses, including hair salons, barbers and sites offering manicures, pedicures and other esthetic services; 
  • Allowing restaurants to operate only for delivery, drive-thru or takeout, while closing to the public;
  • Closing of gyms and fitness centres;
  • Closing of religious and cultural gatherings, with the possibility to provide services virtually;
  • Closing of all recreational activities, sports facilities, casinos, museums, galleries, libraries, movie theatres and concert halls.

Retail businesses that have been listed as critical services can remain open at 25 per cent capacity. The provincial government included in the list businesses related to:

  • maintaining supply chains;
  • providing retail and wholesale services, including food or household consumer goods necessary for the safety, sanitation or operation of residences and businesses, such grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, butcher shops, bakeries, markets and hardware stores; businesses that provide personal protective equipment or protective clothing for use in the workplace; businesses that provide essential goods and services for the health and well-being of animals; gas stations and fuel companies; office supply and service businesses; computer products and related repair and maintenance services; businesses that hold a retail liquor licence, a manufacturer's licence or a retail cannabis licence;
  • providing accommodations;
  • providing institutional, residential, commercial and industrial maintenance;
  • supporting telecommunications and information technology;
  • providing transportation services;
  • manufacturing and production;
  • supporting agriculture and food production services;
  • construction;
  • finance including banks, credit unions and other financial services;
  • natural resources services;
  • environmental services;
  • utilities and public works;
  • health-care seniors care and social services;
  • legal services and regulatory services.

At this time, there will be no changes to child-care services or to K to 12 education. Blended learning (in-class and online) is offered for grades 9 to 12 where distancing cannot be achieved and kindergarten to grade 8 students may be offered a temporary remote learning option.

Therapeutic care provided by regulated professions and massage therapists can continue at this time.

Where non-urgent and elective surgeries and procedures may be impacted, patients will be contacted directly if their scheduled appointments or procedures are affected.

In-patient visitation to hospitals or health centres will be suspended, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis. Designated family caregivers may continue to visit personal care homes. General visitation may be suspended with exceptions. General visitation to outdoor visitation shelters will be implemented, once operational.

The provincial government's news release can be viewed here.

Manitoba Bridge Grant

The provincial government announced on November 10 the establishment of a new grant providing an immediate one-time payment of $5,000 to small- and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profit and charitable organizations. The grant is accessible to activities that were ordered to temporarily cease operations and to remain closed to the public by the public health orders in effect starting November 12. This includes restaurants, bars, beverage rooms, brewpubs, microbreweries, distilleries, casinos, recreation and sports facilities, museums and galleries, theatres and concert halls, as well as organizations like charities, not-for-profits and faith-based organizations that have been adversely impacted.

The Manitoba Bridge Grant application portal will be live Monday, November 16 through www.manitoba.ca/supportsforbusiness. The deadline for applications is December 15. 

The grant may be extended automatically on January 1, 2021, to provide an additional $5,000 to each organization should these public health orders remain in place. If required, the province would automatically process the second payment at that time with no further actions required from applicants. 

The provincial government's news release that describes the grant can be viewed here

Manitoba Gap Protection Program

In May, the province launched the Manitoba Gap Protection Program to provide $6,000 to businesses that did not qualify for federal support programs. Intake is now closed and the province continues to review and process the applications it received. The program has now been converted from a forgivable loan to a grant. Businesses that received federal support will no longer have to repay the province. Furthermore, businesses that received the Manitoba Gap Protection grant now have the possibility to also apply for a range of federal support programs currently available, including the federal wage supports and commercial rent assistance programs.

Wage Subsidy Programs

In the spring, the province introduced three wage subsidy programs and is currently reviewing applications. The Back to Work This Summer and Summer Student Recovery Jobs programs concluded in September.

Employers can apply by December 1 for the Back to Work in Manitoba Wage Subsidy Program. The province is now providing employers that have already applied with $1,500 cash advance per worker hired. Applicants will start receiving money within the next two weeks. Employers will receive an email advising of the advance and including a link to request confirmation of the number of eligible employees hired and other information required to process payment. Employers that re-hire workers laid off as a result of the restrictions that have been implemented are also eligible for the subsidy. Employers will receive the balance of the grant, upon providing proof of payment of wages, by February 1, 2021.

The province will continue processing applications that are received until December 1.

Applications can be submitted online at https://forms.gov.mb.ca/btwm/. Applicants should receive confirmation that the application has been processed within 10 business days.

The province is asking applicants that need to amend the information in their application to contact ITESinfo@gov.mb.ca.

For further information on this program, please visit the government website.

Extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

The federal government is proposing to further extend the wage subsidy program until June 2021 and implement other enhancements to the program to respond to the evolving economic and health situation.

The wage subsidy consists of a base subsidy for all employers whose revenues have been impacted by the pandemic, as well as a top-up subsidy for employers that are hardest hit. There is a separate rate structure for furloughed workers. The base subsidy rate for September 27 to October 24, 2020, continues to apply from October 25 to December 19, 2020. The maximum base subsidy rate is set at 40 per cent for this period, and the maximum top-up subsidy rate remains at 25 per cent.

The revenue-decline test for the base subsidy and the top-up subsidy have been harmonized starting September 27. Instead of using the three-month revenue-decline test for the top-up subsidy, both the base and top-up would be determined by the change in an eligible employer's monthly revenues, year-over-year, for either the current or previous calendar month. This means an employer with a 70 per cent or greater revenue loss in a period would be eligible for a 65 per cent wage subsidy. For employers using the alternative revenue-decline test that was announced on April 8, both the base subsidy and the top-up subsidy are now determined by the change in an eligible employer's monthly revenues relative to the average of its January 2020 and February 2020 revenues.

The wage subsidy program includes a “safe harbour” rule applicable from September 27 to December 19, 2020. An eligible employer is entitled to a top-up subsidy rate that is no less than it would have received under the three-month revenue-decline test.

As of October 25, 2020, the wage subsidy for furloughed employees has been aligned with the benefits provided through Employment Insurance. The subsidy per week in respect of an arm’s length employee (or a non-arm’s length employee who received pre-crisis remuneration for the relevant period) will be: the amount of eligible remuneration paid in respect of the week; or, if the employee receives remuneration of $500 or more in respect of the week, the greater of $500 and 55 per cent of pre-crisis remuneration for the employee, up to a maximum subsidy amount of $573.

Details on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Extension can be viewed at the following link.

Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Lockdown Support

On October 9, the federal government proposed the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy to provide direct relief to businesses, non-profits, and charities that continue to be economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new rent subsidy would be available retroactive to September 27, 2020, until June 2021. On November 2, the government has introduced Bill C-9 – An Act to amend the Income Tax Act and the bill is currently making its way through Parliament.

CERS is replacing the now-expired Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program and is aimed at organizations that have suffered a decline in revenue and will provide a rent or a subsidy for property-related expenses directly to businesses.

  • Eligible expenses for a location for a qualifying period would include commercial rent, property taxes (including school taxes and municipal taxes), property insurance, and interest on commercial mortgages (subject to limits) for a qualifying property, less any subleasing revenues. Expenses for each qualifying period would be capped at $75,000 per location and be subject to an overall cap of $300,000 that would be shared among affiliated entities.
  • Eligible entities include individuals, taxable corporations and trusts, non-profit organizations and registered charities. Public institutions are generally not eligible for the subsidy. Unlike CECRA, there appear to be no restrictions on the types of businesses and organizations (big versus small) that can apply for CERS.
  • Drop-in-Revenues Test: eligibility would generally be determined by the change in an eligible entity's monthly revenues, year-over-year, for the applicable calendar month. Alternatively, an entity can choose to calculate its revenue decline by comparing its current reference month revenues with the average of its January and February 2020 revenues.
  • Support through CERS will be delivered directly to qualifying businesses and organizations without the need for landlords to apply for the rent assistance on behalf of their tenants.

At the time of writing, legislation is still being considered by Parliament. More details will be provided once the program is fully implemented. More information can be found at this link

Additional support will be available for organizations with locations that are temporarily forced to close or temporarily have their business activities significantly restricted by a public health order issued under the laws of Canada or a province or territory. The new Lockdown Support would be available retroactive to September 27, 2020, until June 2021, during periods when businesses are facing eligible public health restrictions. Follow the link for more information about the proposed program.  

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Resource first posted November 12, 2020, with reports from Andrea Signorelli

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