Government programs available to support Canadian entrepreneurs through the coronavirus pandemic

Last updated: May 31, 2021

This page will be updated as new details on governmental supports for Canadian businesses impacted by COVID-19 become available.


Paid sick leave (Ontario)

On April 29, 2021, Ontario announced it will introduce legislation that will entitle employees to up to three paid sick days (taken between April 19, 2021 and September 25, 2021), if the reasons for being away are due to COVID-19. The cost of the paid leave will be reimbursed by the province through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. More details here, or call the COVID-19 Sick Days Information Centre hotline: 1-888-999-2248.

Providing lines of credit and financial support to businesses

Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) Guarantee

Small- and medium-sized Canadian-based businesses hard hit by COVID-19 can access guaranteed, low-interest loans of $25,000 to $1 million.

  • You must have received payments either from the Canada Emergency Subsidy (CEWS) or the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) by having shown at least a 50% revenue decline for at least three months (not necessarily consecutive) within the eight-month period prior to applying to HASCAP.
  • You have up to 10 years to repay the loan, including a possible twelve-month deferment on principal payments at the beginning.
  • The program runs from February 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021.

Apply through your primary financial institution. See more program details here, including a downloadable one-page reference sheet to aid in the conversation with your financial institution.

Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP)

BCAP will provide more than $10 billion of additional support to businesses experiencing cash flow challenges. The funds will be distributed through programs by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and by Export Development Canada (EDC).

How to access program: Businesses seeking support through BCAP should first contact their financial institutions for an assessment of their situation. Financial institutions will refer to EDC and BDC their existing clients whose needs extend beyond what is available through the private sector alone.

Working capital loans (offered through BDC)

  • Working capital loans of up to $2 million with flexible terms and payment postponements for up to 6 months for qualifying businesses; 
  • Postponement of payments for up to six months, free of charge, for existing BDC clients with total BDC loan commitment of $1 million or less
  • Reduced rates on new eligible loans

Co-lending program for SMEs (offered through BDC)

  • Up to $6.25 million for your operational cash flow requirements
  • Differing maximum finance amounts based on business revenues
  • 80% of financed amount provided by BDC and the remaining 20% by your financial institution
  • Provides credit and cash flow term loans to small and medium-sized Canadian businesses in all sectors that were otherwise financially viable and revenue generating prior to the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Financial institutions can issue operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to existing clients, with 80 per cent guaranteed by EDC
  • See list of the 38 financial institutions offering the BCAP Guarantee here
  • Please contact your financial institution for application details

Additional EDC Supports:

EDC also provides support through their insights, tools and advice offerings like Export Help Hub. Through a MyEDC account Canadian businesses can access free services and information. Standard EDC programs are also available to support Canadian companies with international trade.

Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

March 22, 2021 update: The federal government has extended the application deadline for CEBA to June 30, 2021.

December 7, 2020 update: Banks can now lend up up to $60,000 in government-backed loans to eligible owner-operated small businesses, to help them cover their operating costs during this time when their revenues are reduced. This is an increase of $20,000 from the original CEBA amount of $40,000.  If you have already received the $40,000 CEBA loan, you can apply for the additional $20,000. Learn more here.

There is zero interest charged until December 31, 2022. By repaying 75% of your loan on or before December 31, 2022, you can keep the remaining 25% (up to $10,000). If the loan cannot be repaid by December 31, 2022, it can be converted into a three-year term loan with an interest rate of 5%. Contact your primary financial institution to apply.

Eligibility:

  • The business is Canadian-based and in operation as of March 1, 2020.
  • The business’s 2019 payroll was between $20,000 and $1.5 million.
  • The loan is used to continue or resume operations.
  • You have not previously used the program and will not apply for it at a different financial institution.
  • The business has a federal tax registration.

Innovation Assistance Program

  • Offered through the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)
  • IRAP IAP provides a wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks.
  • SMEs pursuing technology-driven innovation who have been unable to secure funding under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) are eligible and can apply for financial assistance under IRAP IAP.
  • November 6, 2020 update: The Government of Canada announced over $155 million to extend Innovation Assistance Program funding for existing recipients. Over the coming weeks, existing IAP recipients will be contacted with more information.

Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS)

April 19, 2021 update: The federal government proposes in Budget 2021 to extend the program until September 25, 2021, while gradually decreasing the subsidy rate, beginning July 4, 2021, as part of the transition to a reopened economy.

  • Canadian businesses, non-profits or charities who lost revenue due to COVID-19 may qualify for a subsidy (up to 65%) to cover part of commercial rent or property expenses. The program runs from September 27, 2020 until June 5, 2021.
  • If you are eligible for the base subsidy, you may also qualify for lockdown support if your business location is significantly affected by a public health order for a week or more.
  • A CERS application must be filed no later than 180 days after the end of a claim period. See the CERS Technical Guidance page for support.

Support for Indigenous-owned Businesses

  • Loans of up to $50,000 will be available to small and medium-sized businesses that are either ineligible for, or unable to access, existing federal and provincial COVID-19 response initiatives for small businesses.
  • Loans will be available through Aboriginal Financial Institutions.
  • Up to 50% of each loan will be in the form of a non-repayable grant, with no interest due on the loan portion until December 31, 2022.

The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF)

April 19, 2021 update: The federal government proposes in Budget 2021 to extend the application deadline until June 30, 2021.

  • Provides financial contributions (interest-free loans) to help support fixed operating costs of SMEs, where business revenues have been affected by COVID-19
  • The fund is delivered by Canada’s six regional development agencies

February 11 update: The federal government has increased funding for the RRRF by $500 million, of which $250 million will be directed to Western Canada. New applicants can now receive a loan of up to $60,000. Existing program recipients can apply for a top-up of up to $20,000. See more details here.

Southern Ontario

  • Support for southern Ontario SMEs that do not qualify for, or have been declined for, current Government of Canada COVID-19 relief measures.
  • Applicants have two options (see more details here):
    • Option 1: Up to $60,000 conditionally repayable interest-free loan. On the first $40,000, repaying 75% on or before Dec 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of up to 25% (or $10,000). For amounts above $40,000 and up to $60,000, the terms of forgiveness increase to 50%.
    • Option 2: Between $40K and $1 million fully repayable, interest-free loan.

View details for other regional development agencies: Northern Ontario, Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Northern Canada, Western Canada

Programs to help companies make payroll

Work-Sharing 

  • This adjustment program is designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. 
  • What’s new: The Government of Canada will enhance this program at an estimated cost of $12 million to help employers who are experiencing a downturn in business due to COVID-19, and their workers.

Features of the Work-Sharing (WS) program

  • A WS unit is a group of employees with similar job duties who agree to reduce their hours of work over a specific period of time
  • The unit needs to reduce their hours by the same amount and can share work
  • The unit must reduce their hours by 10% – 60%, and they can vary week to week as long as the average work reduction hours does not exceed 10% – 60%
  • A WS agreement has to be a minimum of 6 consecutive weeks long and can last up to 38 weeks. Employers may be able to extend their agreements up to a total of 76 weeks

Additional resource: Webinar Recording: Understanding Canada’s Work-Sharing Program

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

April 19, 2021 update: The federal government proposes in Budget 2021 to extend the program until September 25, 2021, while gradually decreasing the subsidy rate, beginning July 4, 2021, as part of the transition to a reopened economy.

CEWS program details & eligibility:

The CEWS provides eligible businesses a subsidy of employee wages for up to 24 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

You are an eligible employer if you saw revenues decrease by 15% in March 15 to April 11, 2020 (claim period 1) or 30% for following claim periods due to COVID-19. Eligible employers include individuals, taxable corporations, partnerships consisting of eligible employers as well as non‑profit organizations and registered charities.

10% Temporary Wage Subsidy 

  • A three-month measure allows eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
  • 10% of the remuneration you pay from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer
  • Note: this is a separate program from the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy

Eligibility

  • You are eligible if you are a Canadian-controlled private corporation (including a cooperative corporation) eligible for the small business deduction, an individual, partnership, non-profit corporation, or registered charity;
  • have an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, 2020; and
  • pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration to an eligible employee

For further information, please see this FAQ page.

Added flexibility for corporate taxes

  • T2 Corporation Income Tax Returns: The CRA will allow all businesses to defer T2 corporation income tax returns otherwise due in June, July or August, to September 1, 2020. As previously announced, any income tax balance due on or after March 18 and before September 1 will also be due by September 1, 2020.
  • The Liaison Officer service is now available over the phone to help owners of small businesses to understand their tax obligations. 

Direct wage support for employees 

Transition from CERB to EI

The CERB program has closed, but you may be eligible for benefits through temporary changes to the Employment Insurance program that are retroactive to September 27, 2020 and run for one year.

Additional recovery benefit programs are also in place that are retroactive to September 27, 2020 and run until September 25, 2021. These include:

Boost to Child Benefit payments

May 31, 2021 update: In 2021, families eligible to receive this benefit (i.e., they have a net income of $120,000 or less) will receive $300 per payment for each child under the age of six. The first payments will be issued on May 28, 2021 and will include both the January and April payments. The final two payments will be paid on July 30 and October 29, 2021. More details here.

GST/HST Credit 

  • A tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. It may also include payments from provincial and territorial programs.

Support in assessing and navigating funding options  

Business Resilience Service

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce provides resources such as a guide to financial benefits, webinars, toolkits, and COVID-19 data and research to help businesses manage operations throughout the pandemic and plan their recovery.

Regional Development Agencies: Support for business during COVID-19

Canada’s Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) can assist small- or medium-sized businesses that need assistance. They provide:

  • Support in accessing federal funding programs
  • Advice and pathfinding services to other federal programs and services

If you are already receiving RDA funding, you may be eligible to receive additional funding and/or flexible arrangements. 

Directory of Canada’s Regional Development Agencies:

Active Funders in Canada List

Hockeystick has compiled a list of active funders that is broken down by type of funding: equity, lenders, government and programs.