Updates on COVID-19
We are working closely with our government relations firm, Paradigme Strategies, to keep you informed of developments regarding COVID-19 and the measures announced by the various levels of government. We will post news regularly on this page as well as on our Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. If the situation requires it, we will also send special communications to members by email.
April 4, 2020 announcements
On April 3, in a press release, the Québec government announced the creation of the Emergency assistance program for small and medium-sized businesses.
This program is set up for SMEs in all sectors of activity who need liquidity of less than $ 50,000 for their working capital. They can get a loan or a loan guarantee.
The main terms and the procedure for obtaining assistance can be found here (in French only).To request this funding, you must contact your MRC.
Remember that, for more than $ 50,000, the Government of Quebec had set up the Temporary Concerted Action Program for Businesses (PACTE, in French) on March 19. These two programs complement the Canadian Business Emergency Fund and the federal government’s Emergency Wage Subsidy.
Measures to relax loans granted under the Local Investment Funds (FLI, in French)
The government has also announced that companies that have received a loan from an FLI will have an additional three months ‘respite for repayment (capital and interest) for a total of six months’ respite.
Creation of the Incentive Program for the retention of essential workers (PIRTE, in French)
If you have employees who are currently working “in a critical sector” who earn gross wages of $ 550 per week or less, they may be eligible for the new program.
Benefits will be paid retroactively to March 15, for a maximum of sixteen weeks. With this compensation, the worker will obtain, in addition to his salary, a taxable lump sum of $ 400 per month, or $ 1,600 for a period of sixteen weeks. To be entitled to it, the applicant must make the request using a form on the Revenu Québec site as of May 19.
April 1, 2020 announcements
Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng, and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Navdeep Bains, gave some details on the wage subsidy that was announced last Friday. The program is now called the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
- The subsidy will be paid to employers who demonstrate that they have experienced a drop in income of at least 30% and will reimburse a percentage of the remuneration actually paid to their employees during a given period.
- The drop in income will be obtained by comparing the gross income of a given month to the gross income of the same month last year.
- The amount of the subsidy for an employee given for the eligible remuneration paid between March 15 and June 6, 2020 would be the greater of the following amounts:
- 75% of the amount of remuneration paid, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $ 847
- The amount of compensation paid, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $ 847, or 75% of the weekly compensation the employee received before the crisis, whichever is less.
- The program will apply retroactively to March 15 and will continue until June 6. There are three application periods: March 15 to April 11, April 12 to May 9 and May 10 to June 6.
- Even if the government will not impose it, companies will be asked to commit to doing all they can to cover the remaining 25%.
- A Canada Revenue Agency portal will be launched within three to six weeks for businesses to register online.
- The subsidy will be paid to the company by direct deposit if its banking information is recorded in its Canada Revenue Agency Business File.
- As mentioned previously, the size and type of business will not be among the eligibility criteria (private business, notfor-profit organization, charity, etc.).
- Organizations that are not eligible for this wage subsidy may continue to be eligible for the previously announced 10% wage subsidy.
The government is asking businesses to re-hire their people now, to pay them, to submit a request (when the system is in place) and then to receive the subsidy for the given period. The company will have to make a request for each period.
At first glance, the program is not as easy to apply than expected or desired:
- With the criterion of a 30% drop in revenues, companies that are less than a year old are excluded.
- This same criterion makes the program problematic for companies where there is a long period between the time of manufacture, sale and income, and those where income is cyclical.
- In the 10% wage subsidy, the company “received” a subsidy by not paying its amounts due to the government. The grant also helped with the company’s liquidity problem.
The government appears to want to be flexible in the delivery of the program. However, several details are still to come. Dates, criteria and more will follow in the coming days.
Le gouvernement demande aux entreprises de réengager leurs gens dès maintenant, de les payer, de soumettre une demande (lorsque le système sera en place) puis de recevoir la subvention pour la période donnée. L’entreprise devra faire une demande pour chacune des périodes.
À première vue, le programme est moins facile à appliquer que prévu ou souhaité :
- Avec le critère de la baisse de 30 % des revenus, cela exclue les entreprises de moins d’un an.
- Ce même critère rend le programme problématique pour les entreprises où il y a un long lead time entre le moment de la fabrication, la vente et le revenu ou encore celles où le revenu est cyclique.
- Dans la subvention salariale à 10 %, l’entreprise « recevait » sa subvention en ne versant pas ses montants dûs au gouvernement. La subvention aidait aussi au problème de liquidité de l’entreprise.
Clairement, le gouvernement semble vouloir faire preuve de souplesse dans l’application du programme. Par contre, il faut comprendre qu’encore beaucoup de détails sont encore à venir. Plusieurs dates, critères et autres vont suivre dans les prochains jours.
March 30, 2020 announcements
News from Ottawa
Prime Minister Trudeau clarified a few details and announced minor changes to the Temporary Wage Subsidy, which was announced last Friday.
The grant will be offered to companies that demonstrate that they have experienced a 30% drop in revenue due to COVID-19. The size and type of business will not be eligibility criteria (private business, not-for-profit organization, charity, etc.). The subsidy covers 75% of salaries, up to an income of $58,700, therefore an amount of $ 847 per week per employee.
As the intention is to help as many businesses as possible as quickly as possible, the Prime Minister explained that the administrators of the program will be fairly permissive upstream but that they will, retroactively, impose “serious consequences” to organizations that have tried to abuse the system.
The program will apply retroactively to March 15, and Canada’s Revenue Agency is currently focusing on the implementation of the Canadian Emergency Benefit (CEP). The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Bill Morneau and Mary Ng, will give the details of the program tomorrow, Tuesday.
March 27, 2020 announcements
News from Ottawa
The government is increasing the Temporary Wage Subsidy up to 75% for businesses eligible for three months and retroactive to March 15, 2020. More details on the eligibility criteria will be announced by the end of the month.
The government is also launching the Emergency Account for Canadian Businesses. The program will provide up to $ 25 billion to financial institutions to provide interest-free loans to small businesses. These loans will be guaranteed and funded by the Government of Canada. These will be bank loans of up to $ 40,000. A 25% loan forgiveness will be made to companies that repay it before December 31, 2022, turning a quarter of the loan into a grant.
The government is launching the Small and Medium-Sized Business Guarantee and Loan Program. This program provides up to $ 40 billion in guaranteed loans, funded by Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada, to small businesses that turn to their financial institutions to help them cope with COVID-19.
Finally, the government allows businesses, including the self-employed, to defer any GST / HST payments they must make on amounts collected on their sales, as well as the refund of customs duties payable on imports until June.
News from Quebec
GST / HST Payment Report
At a press conference, Prime Minister Legault recalled that the Government of Quebec is the one responsible for collecting GST / HST payments, in addition to the QST and that, as such, it has heard with the government federal government to defer all sales tax payments to June.
March 25, 2020 announcements
Changes to business closure rules
The page detailing essential business services and activities has been modified.
Part of the text has been modified:
‘’As of March 25, 2020, at 00:01 and until April 13, 2020, the Gouvernement du Québec has ordered the minimization of all non-priority services and activities. (…) Businesses that provide non-essential services, excluding stores, can maintain minimal operations to ensure the resumption of their activities, bearing in mind the directives issued by public health authorities. »
- When this level of activity is essential to accelerate the resumption of normal activity level or reduce the duration of this resumption of activity (the case of aluminum smelters, in particular)
- When the cessation of activities would cause the company to be in a situation of default of contract which would put the sustainability of the company at risk
- When the activities are carried out for the benefit of a company whose activities or services are deemed essential in its jurisdiction
IMPORTANT: The QFMA’s recommendation is to choose caution, when in doubt. The priority is the health and safety of your employees, their families and the entire population.
The government’s intention, by making the operating rules more flexible, is clearly not to communicate to all businesses that they now have an authorization to operate at full capacity, but rather to try to find a fragile balance that contributes to improving the health situation without seriously undermining the Quebec businesses on which we will rely to carry out the recovery when the crisis is over.
In any case, if you think that the activities of your business should be deemed essential, you can complete the form online and a government information agent will contact you.
March 24, 2020 announcements
Information for businesses on essential services
There are few companies that could be designated as essential in our industry, but there could be factories that make furniture for hospitals or laboratories for example that could receive this designation. You may request this designation and send your questions to the MEI, a form has been posted on the government website to do so. An information officer from the Government of Quebec will contact you shortly afterwards.
When filling out the form, you should mention that:
a) your company supplies a company whose activities have been deemed essential and
b) your company will continue to apply all possible sanitary and distancing measures.
March 23, 2020 announcements
News from Quebec
Closure of all non-essential services and economic activities
The Quebec government orders the closure of all non-essential services and economic activities until April 13. The deadline to do so is Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 pm. Those who can close today are asked to do so.
The government encourages you to continue all activities, if possible, in teleworking.
A full list of establishments that can remain open can be found here. Not surprisingly, furniture manufacturing is not considered essential by the government. The AFMQ urges you to follow government directives. Do not hesitate to communicate with the CEO of the AFMQ, Mr. Gilles Pelletier by email or by phone at 514 866-3631 ext. 210, our priority is to support and inform you.
March 20, 2020 announcements
News from Ottawa
Border closure with the United States
Prime Minister Trudeau has confirmed that the border closure with the United States “for tourism and recreation” will take effect at midnight Friday March 20.
The Prime Minister said that Service Canada has received 500,000 applications for employment insurance in the past week. In comparison, in the same week last year, less than 27,000 requests were made.
News from Quebec
In his press conference, Prime Minister Legault once again spoke of the construction industry and characterized it as “a critical part of the Quebec economy”. For him, the projects must continue. However, he urged construction contractors to ensure that 260,000 workers have access to safe workplaces.
News from the City of Montreal
New telephone line
514 394-1793 has been put in place so that Montreal SMEs can obtain information on the support measures offered by the City of Montreal and its partners. The line will be in use Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
March 19, 2020 announcements
News from Ottawa: Closing of the Canada-U.S. border
Prime Minister Trudeau said the announced closing of the Canada-U.S. border will “probably” be going into effect overnight Friday into Saturday. Mr. Trudeau added that Ottawa is still working out the details with its American counterparts.
News from Québec
In his first news conference (the one that included Dr. Arruda and Minister McCann), Premier Legault spoke about the construction industry and the difficulty in being able to practice social distancing on construction sites.
The government had many conversations with construction union representatives on Wednesday. Premier Legault stated that a distinction needed to be made between the actual construction sites themselves and the outlying areas (where the workers have their lunch and take their breaks). “We think we have been able to settle the main issues in the construction industry,” Mr. Legault remarked.”
Economic aid plan
In the second news conference, the Premier and the Ministers of Finance and Economy and Innovation, Éric Girard and Pierre Fitzgibbon respectively, announced the injection of $2.5 billion into the newly introduced Programme d’action concertée temporaire pour les entreprises (PACTE), a concerted temporary emergency action plan for businesses.
The financial aid, in the amount of a minimum $50,000 in funding, is allocated in the form of a guaranteed loan (preferred), but it can also be in the form of a loan “at very advantageous rates”.
The business needs to show it is having liquidity problems and that these problems are temporary. The businesses “will have to show their financial structure offers realistic profitability prospects.”
Refinancing is prohibited.
The basic criteria (special conditions may apply) has been posted on the Investissement Québec website.
Minister Fitzgibbon also announced that the Fonds locaux d’investissement (FLI) and Investissement Québec had been instructed to delay capital and interest payments relating to loans for their current clientele.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Éric Girard confirmed it is in step with the federal government to defer income tax and installment payments for businesses until September 1.
An analysis by our governmental relations agency
It is noteworthy Premier Legault opened the news conference with an acknowledgement that the decisions made by the government were ones that had had a very negative impact on the economy and, in particular, on consumption, as well as on private investments (considering the effect of these decisions on businesses’ confidence).
While Minister Fitzgibbon described the situation as being “an unprecedented exogenous shock,” it should be noted the government spokespersons expressed a fairly high level of confidence in “getting out of the crisis”. Their view is that the economy was running at full throttle, so there is no reason to believe the effects of the crisis would have an impact in the mid and long term. In his remarks in English, the Finance Minister termed the situation as one of “disruption, interruption, not destruction.”
Premier Legault issued a plea for supporting local businesses. “Buy products that are made in Québec, even online. It is of utmost importance if we want to give ourselves a better chance that a maximum number of businesses get through this.”
March 18, 2020 announcements
Canada’s COVID-19 economic response plan
Ottawa’s financial plan has a $27.4 billion budget.
The main measures in support of businesses are as follows:
- The deferring until after August 31, without interest or penalty, of any tax amounts owing on income and installments that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.
- Enhancements to the EI Work Sharing Program (which provides employment insurance benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours, thereby sharing the work available and limiting layoffs).
These measures add to the $10 billion injected into a credit relief program announced last Friday, managed by the BDC and EDC, as well as to the COVID-19 response fund ($1 billion).
The main measures for individuals are as follows:
Creation of the Emergency Care Benefit providing up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks, for:
- Workers who do not qualify for EI sickness benefits who are sick, quarantined, who have been instructed to self-quarantine or who are taking care of a family member that is sick with COVID-19
- Parents who work, whether they qualify for EI or not, and who must stay at home, unpaid, because their children are sick or require additional services because of school closures.
- Implementing of the Emergency Support Benefit for workers that do not qualify for EI and are at risk of losing their job.
- Increasing by $300 per child the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit payment amounts, for the 2019-2020 benefit year.
- A special one-time payment of the goods and services tax credit.
- Extension until June 1 of the deadline for filing of the tax return and the deferring until after August 31, without interest or penalty, of any taxable amounts on income and installments that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.
This adds to the waiving, for at least six months, of the mandatory one week waiting period for EI sickness benefits for individuals in imposed quarantine or who have been instructed to self-quarantine, and waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.
Closing of the Canada-United States border
Canada and the United States mutually agreed to close their common border to 200,000 people that cross it daily (with some exceptions), while maintaining the flow of goods and merchandise ($2 billion/day. This decision will be implemented “very soon”.
The government has set up a special page on its website to centralize the information for businesses regarding the resources that pertain to them.
In his daily news conference, Premier Legault made no announcements of significant interest to QFMA members.
An easing by financial institutions
Mouvement Desjardins, BMO Bank of Montrèal, CIBC Bank, National Bank of Canada, RBC, Scotia Bank and TD Bank all issued press releases on Tuesday night to announce they will be flexible in finding solutions for members and customers, both individual and business clientele. The terms and conditions vary depending on the institutions, and every situation will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. The press release by Mouvement Desjardins can be found here and the joint release by the six major banks can be found here.
The many options being offered include facilitating credit terms, such as providing a moratorium on principal debt repayment or payment deferrals on credit cards and other financing products.
March 17, 2020 afternoon announcements
In a first press conference, the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, announced the government is reporting the filing of tax returns, as well as the payment of said taxes.
For businesses, the government is suspending tax payments until July 31, 2020.
For individuals, the deadline for filing and transmitting the tax return is extended to June 1. For individuals in business, the deadline to pay any balance due is extended to July 31. For those who have installments to pay, the June 15 deposit is suspended until July 31.
This represents $ 7.7 billion injected into the economy during the reporting period.
In a second press conference, Premier Legault confirms that plans to help businesses will be announced in the coming days.
The Prime Minister asks employers to be understanding, to give employees the necessary 14 days of quarantine after returning from a trip and that they do not ask for doctor’s notes.
News from Ottawa
The federal action plan to boost the economy will be released tomorrow, Wednesday March 18.
To meet the demands of the Quebec government, the federal plan must include
1) help for individuals
2) for businesses and their liquidity needs
3) a cost-shared program between the federal and provincial governments for infrastructure.
Premier Legault said he was optimistic about the first two points and said that he felt a certain openness to the third.
March 17, 2020 morning announcements
An announcement on federal government support for businesses is expected tomorrow, March 18.
In addition, the federal government has announced that the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) will establish a $ 10 billion business credit program to help businesses during the COVID-19 period.
Three funding programs are targeted:
- Small business loan
- Working capital loan
- Financing purchase orders
In addition, companies can use the BDC for its advisory services.
March 16th, 2020 announcements
- Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the borders will be closed to visitors who are neither citizens nor residents. For now, this rule will not apply to Americans.
- Airlines will have to deny access to their planes to passengers who show symptoms.
- Only four airports can receive international flights.
The Legault government’s second press point was on the creation of a brand-new temporary worker assistance program (PATT). First, the Prime Minister painted a picture of the foreseeable negative impacts of the pandemic on Quebec’s economy.
Four categories of negative impacts were identified
- Decrease in international trade which will lead to lower exports for our companies and difficulties for imports
- The tourism and culture industries are hit hard
- Decrease in private investment
- Fall in the price of shares on the stock market which should reduce the consumption of certain people.
Three main categories of measures will be undertaken
- Helping individuals who need to isolate themselves and who will lose their jobs.
- Aid to businesses, especially those experiencing liquidity problems: rapid loan response, some of which will be converted into a non-repayable contribution.
- An increase in public investment, by accelerating the Québec Infrastructure Plan (PQI) and by anticipating decisions in three main areas: health, education and transport.
The intention is to coordinate with the federal government, to simplify the procedures, and to set up a one-stop shop.
Regarding the program to provide financial assistance to meet the needs of workers who cannot fully earn their income and who are not eligible for another program, payments will be made through the Red Cross. A form will be available from March 19th and the payment of the sums would be made in 48 hours. The parameters of the program may change depending on the criteria of the federal program, which should be made public in the next few days.
The government finished by asking businesses to be flexible and collaborative.
Aid to businesses
Regarding assistance to businesses, government spokespersons have raised the possibility that there may soon be a loan program in place, some of which could be converted into a non-repayable contribution, depending on the circumstances. The government is also reflecting on installment payments and has identified the possibility of not requiring them as a quick way to inject funds into the Quebec economy. A decision has not been made, but it is a subject of discussion, both in Quebec and in Ottawa.