The following government and business resources and expert advice offer support for your and your clients' businesses. Check out our Practice Management Resources section in this Hub for guidelines and tips as you transition back to physical operations at your firm.

New GOVERNMENT OF CANADA RESOURCES

The federal government offers support to businesses and individuals through multiple programs comprising the Canada COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. Some of these supports are available to lawyers, law firms and other businesses offering legal services and are summarized below.

For more detailed information, see Canada’s website Managing your Business during COVID-19. Also consider this guide, produced by Baker Tilly Canada, one of the country’s largest associations of chartered professional accounting firms, outlining financial relief measures available to businesses and individuals who are impacted economically by the COVID-19 outbreak.

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To reduce job losses, CEWS provides a 75% wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 40 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020 to November 21, 2020. When introduced, a 30% decline in revenues was required to be eligible. A subsequent expansion of the program eliminated this requirement, although the subsidy rate varies depending on the drop in revenue. An additional subsidy of up to 25% is available to employers who have experienced a 50% or greater drop in revenue. Eligible employers include:

  • Taxable corporations and trusts
  • Individuals
  • Registered charities
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Partnerships, if at least 50 per cent owned by partners that would otherwise be eligible for the subsidy.

If you have employees, and your business is an eligible employer, consider applying for this subsidy to support the retention of your staff.

Learn more about CEWS eligibility criteria, and consider the perspectives of experts from the Joint Committee on Taxation of the CBA and CPA in CBA National. (Note this article was written before the CEWS program was expanded.)

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The WS Program offers another option to reduce payroll costs and help law firms and other legal services businesses avoid job losses. The Program provides Employment Insurance benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce work hours and share available work while their employer recovers. The WS Program was in place before the pandemic but the possible duration of a WS agreement has been extended to 76 weeks to meet the current need.

Learn more about WS Program eligibility criteria.

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The Temporary Wage Subsidy reduces the amount of payroll deductions eligible employers must remit to the Canada Revenue Agency, equal to 10% of remuneration paid from March 18 to June 19, 2020. The subsidy is capped at $1,375 per employee, up to a total of $25,000 per employer.

Eligible employers include:

  • Individuals or sole proprietors (excludes trusts)
  • Partnerships (partnership members consist only of individuals, excluding trusts, registered charities, other eligible partnerships, or eligible Canadian-controlled private corporations)
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Registered charities
  • Canadian-controlled private corporations.

If you have employees, and your business is an eligible employer, you may qualify for both the CEWS and the Temporary Wage Subsidy. Learn more about the Temporary Wage Subsidy.

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CERB is a taxable, income replacement benefit of $2,000 for each four-week period for up to 24 weeks from March 15 to September 26, 2020. Lawyers who have stopped working or whose work hours have been reduced due to COVID-19 may be eligible (maximum earnings of $1000/month to retain eligibility). CERB recipients will be transitioned to the Employment Insurance program in October 2020.

Learn more about CERB eligibility criteria.

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CESB is a taxable income replacement benefit of $1,250 for each four-week period for up to 16 weeks, (or $2,000 for a student with a disability or with dependents) from May to August 2020, available to post-secondary students and recent law graduates who are unable to find work due to COVID-19.

While the CESB ends at the end of August 2020, a moratorium until September 30, 2020 on accrual of interest and on payment of interest and principal on Canada Student Loans may also benefit recent graduates. Learn more about suspension of CSL payments.

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CEBA provides interest-free, partially forgivable loans up to $40,000 to small businesses that have experienced diminished revenues due to COVID-19 and who face ongoing non-deferrable costs such as payroll, rent, utilities, insurance, property tax and regularly scheduled debt service. Twenty-five per cent of the loan is forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022.

When introduced, narrow eligibility criteria requiring a minimum payroll excluded many solo and small firms. A subsequent expansion of the program allowed businesses with a payroll less than $20,000 to access this support as long as other criteria are met, including having non-deferrable expenses in 2020 between $40,000 and $1.5 million. The scope of businesses eligible for CEBA was widened to include small owner-operated businesses that do not have a payroll, family-owned corporations that pay employees in dividends and sole proprietors. This change effectively opened up the benefit to more solo and small firms.

Learn more about eligibility for CEBA.

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The RRRF was established to address gaps where some businesses in need are ineligible for other federal emergency support measures. In particular, applicants who may be eligible for the expanded CEBA should first apply for that measure before applying to the RRRF.

The RRRF aims to:

  • Mitigate the financial pressure experienced by businesses and organizations to allow them to continue their operations, including paying their employees
  • Support projects by businesses, organizations and communities to prepare for a successful recovery

The RRRF is administered by the Regional Development Agencies. The eligibility criteria and specific support available will differ in each region:

Learn more about RRRF.

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CECRA provides rent relief for small businesses by reducing their commercial rent by at least 75% in April, May, June, July and August 2020. On successful application by the property owner, CECRA will cover 50 per cent of the rent (by way of a forgivable loan), with the tenant paying up to 25% and the property owner forgiving at least 25%.

Lawyers who are tenants and meet the following criteria should speak with their commercial landlord about applying for this benefit:

  • You pay no more than $50,000 in monthly gross rent per location.
  • You generate no more than $20 million in gross annual revenues.
  • You have experienced at least a 70% decline in pre-pandemic revenues.

Learn more about the CECRA.

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The SME program, supported by the Export Development Canada and Business Development Bank, offers guaranteed loans to small and medium-sized businesses that need help with operational cash flow. Lawyers that meet these criteria can apply through their bank:

  • Your business was directly or indirectly impacted by, and was financially stable prior to, the pandemic.
  • The financing will be used solely to support operational cashflow requirements.
  • You meet your financial institution’s credit criteria.

Learn more about SME.

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ESCR provides eligible essential service businesses with personal protective equipment, non-medical masks and disinfection products to address urgent, short-term (45 days) needs, on a cost-recovery basis, when those supplies cannot be accessed another way. Lawyers and businesses providing legal services have been deemed essential services by many provinces and territories. Public Safety Canada lists the following as essential services:

  • Professional and other services that support lawmakers and the court system to ensure individuals have access to justice where critical interests are at stake
  • Those whose services are necessary to conduct hearings and ensure orders of an independent judiciary are enforced, including but not limited to: the administration of justice; criminal law; family law; and courts (e.g., prosecutors, legal aid and duty counsel, defence counsel or their representatives, sheriffs, court staff and victim support services)

Before requesting support from the ESCR, visit the PPE supply hub for information on buying personal protective equipment and explore all other sources of support, including existing support from within your sector and/or provincial or territorial governments.

When considering reopening your physical offices, please also refer to the CBA resource: Returning to the Office: Considerations for Law Firms.

Learn more about ESCR.

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CRA has extended the payment due date to September 30, 2020 for 2019 individual tax returns, 2019 or 2020 corporation or trust returns, and instalment payments. Late filing fees are waived for returns filed by September 30.

Learn more about tax relief measures.

Small Business Resources
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The following organizations have developed lists of resources and assistance programs for small businesses.

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Small Business BC has launched the B.C. Business COVID-19 Support Service. This one-stop resource answers questions about supports available to businesses from the provincial and federal governments, industry and community partners. Visit covid.smallbusinessbc.ca for information on Funding & Financial Relief, Managing Your Business, Employee Management, and more.

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The BCEDA #COVID19 Resources for BC Businesses Guide is a shareable live document continually updated with the most relevant information, tools and resources for the BC business community. 80+ pages of information including industry specific resources, utilities, insurance and banking information, links to webinars and more. Plus their Community Resources page offers resources for Economic Developers and Local Leaders.

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BC Chamber of Commerce has a good list of resources for businesses affected by COVID-19. 

Access the BC Chamber of Commerce Business Support "Cheat Sheet"

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Clio has committed $1 million to help the global legal community navigate the challenges of COVID-19. They have an assistance program and a number of support resources available on their website

Guidance for Employers
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New COVID-19 Temporary Layoffs

Workers and employers who need to extend temporary layoffs beyond the Aug. 30, 2020, expiry date are reminded to apply for a variance using the Employment Standards Branch’s new online application by Aug. 25.

Visit the BC Government website for more information.

BC’s COVID-19 Action Plan includes the following information for businesses:

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Advice from Korn Ferry consultants on how to lead through and beyond COVID-19

In the age of social distancing amid COVID-19, what makes work, well, work?

Disruption abounds. Many companies have shut down travel and enacted mandatory working from home, where they can. Employees are grappling with chaotic home working environments – or continuing to come to work, uneasily, for jobs that can’t be done anywhere else.

What can organizations do at this critical moment to keep work going – and importantly, to care for, and guide their people at a time of tremendous stress? Let’s examine the issue from the point of view of both leaders and employees –then turn to some practical solutions that address both perspectives.

Learn more.

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Objective: Provide a framework for risk-informed decision making about public health actions for workplaces/businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Audience(s): Employers and business owners can use this document to consider risks associated with their workplace/business, the implementation of risk mitigation strategies, and in consultation with local public health authorities (PHA) regarding decisions to close workplaces. PHA can use this tool to support decision-making about workplaces/businesses in their jurisdictions.

Learn more.

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WorkSafeBC’s Preventing exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace provides general information that all employers may use to assess the risks and controls in their workplace.

You may also wish to review our industry information pages for preventative measures to protect workers in specific industries from COVID-19.

Learn about some additional steps to take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 here.

CBA PANDEMIC RESOURCES
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The CBA’s National Labour and Employment Law Section created a pandemic preparedness resource guide to address key questions for employers, unions and employees.

This guide helps lawyers prepare their clients and advise them during a pandemic. It can also be used by lawyers to assess the effect a pandemic could have on their own workplace. It covers such things as pandemic plans, vaccination requirements, work refusals, forced absences, compassionate care leave and doctor’s notes. The guide includes a concise two-page chart that can be shared with clients and covers what to expect and what measures to take during three different stages of a pandemic in the workplace.

DOWNLOAD

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It’s the topic on everyone’s mind – what do you do in a pandemic. And for employment lawyers specifically – how do you protect the workplace? What type of legislation are we dealing with when it comes to responding to pandemics? Learn more with guest Sheila Osborne-Brown. Recorded Feb 27, 2020.