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April 28, 2021

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

LAST UPDATED April 28, 2021

The Manitoba government recently implemented new public health orders in an effort to help slow the spread of variants of concern and to protect the health-care system and all Manitobans from the third wave of COVID-19

Effective April 28, 2021, additional public health order restrictions will be in effect for a period of four weeks.

  • no visitors will be allowed to private households either indoors or outdoors, except for specific exemptions, including allowing one visitor for individuals who live alone;
  • no indoor gatherings will be permitted and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, including household members, will be allowed in public outdoor spaces only;
  • patio dining will be restricted to groups of four people only with no household restrictions, with no changes to dine-in restrictions;
  • food courts in malls and shopping centres will be required to close;
  • faith-based gatherings will be limited to 25 per cent capacity or a maximum of 10 people, whichever is lower, with indoor mask use required at all times;
  • gyms and fitness centres continue to be limited to 25 per cent capacity, but individuals, patrons and staff will be required to maintain physical distancing of three metres (nine feet) from others and masks must be worn at all times except while swimming;
  • spectators at outdoor sports and recreation facilities will be limited to one parent/caregiver spectator per youth participant, if physical distancing of two metres (six ft.) is maintained;
  • dance, theatre and music schools will continue to be limited to 25 per cent capacity, but the new orders will limit the maximum number of people on site to 10 with one parent/caregiver spectator per youth participant, if physical distancing of two metres (six ft.) is maintained;
  • personal service business will be able to continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity, but appointments will be required;
  • day camps will be permitted to have up to 10 children indoors and outdoors; and
  • retail stores must be limited to 25 per cent of the capacity of the store or up to 250 patrons, whichever is lower, and malls will be limited to 25 per cent of the facility’s capacity.

In late January, the Manitoba government amended public health orders to put formal restrictions on interprovincial travel to protect Manitobans from COVID-19 and to help prevent the importation of possible variants from other jurisdictions. Orders prohibiting travel to Northern Manitoba have been in effect since October 13, 2020. 

Effective January 29, 2021, anyone entering Manitoba from anywhere in Canada will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. This includes those entering from northern and Western Canada, and from west of Terrace Bay in Ontario, which under previous health orders did not require self-isolation.

Those travelling for essential interprovincial work and for medical purposes will be exempt from the self-isolation measures. Details can be found in the January 26 news release

Effective Friday, March 19th, 2021, public health officials strongly recommend that COVID-19 testing occur before travel to First Nations and Indigenous and Northern Relations communities, and before someone returns to a community if a resident has been away for more than 48 hours. 

Manitoba Bridge Grant

The Manitoba government has extended the Manitoba Bridge Grant application deadline until January 31, 2021, and has expanded eligibility as a consequence of the extension of the public health orders announced on January 8, 2021.

The provincial government has confirmed eligibility for hotels, resorts, lodges and outfitters, travel agencies, janitorial services companies and owners or operators of licensed passenger transportation businesses.

Beginning January 8, 2021, the Manitoba Government started issuing a second payment to eligible applicants that applied for a Bridge Grant during the period of November 16 - December 31, 2020. Bridge Grant recipients will receive a payment in the amount of $5,000 whereas Bridge Grant for Home-Based Businesses recipients will receive a payment equal to their 2020 payment to a maximum of $5,000. 

Beginning January 13, 2021, new applicants to the Manitoba Bridge Grant will be entitled to a one-time payment of $10,000, whereas eligible home-based business applicants will receive a maximum payment of $10,000 under the Manitoba Bridge Grant - Stream B Home-Based Business Support.

The Manitoba government is expanding the Manitoba Bridge Grant program and extending the deadline to apply.

 The Manitoba Bridge Grant was first announced on November 10, 2020, and it provides $5,000 upfront to businesses, not-for-profits and charities ordered to temporarily cease operations or close locations by Manitoba COVID-19 public health orders that came into effect on November 12. The grant was initially available for businesses with physical storefronts, such as restaurants, bars, recreation and sports facilities, museums, theatres and organizations such as charities, not-for-profits and faith-based organizations. 

 The second stream of the Manitoba Bridge Grant program opened its intake on December 9, 2020. It will provide up to $5,000 in support to home-based businesses that were initially ineligible. This may include, but it is not limited to, event planners, photographers, artists and tradespeople who do not operate a retail location. Eligible full-time businesses that were impacted by the public health orders will receive a grant in the amount equal to 10 per cent of their most recent calendar year revenues, to a maximum contribution of $5,000.  

 The deadline for applications for both streams of the Manitoba Bridge Grant is December 31. To access the application form for stream one or for the second stream, visit  gov.mb.ca/covid19/programs/bridge-grant.

 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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