At the DVBA we are focused on supporting our members during this pandemic. Uncertainty has been, and continues to be, one of the most troubling elements of this crisis.
The DVBA’s initial response was to advocate for direct supports – not loans – for our businesses, and to share information about federal and provincial supports with our members as details became available. We have strongly called for commercial rent reliefs and property tax deferrals and reductions, and will continue to do so as the pandemic continues to impact businesses.
Through the lockdown and over the summer we have focused our marketing efforts on informing the public about how they can support downtown businesses and help their favourite businesses survive. We are still using social media, contesting, paid TV, video, and print media to encourage our audiences to shop locally, buy gift cards, order meals, and otherwise support the business community. As we enter the fall and winter, our marketing department is highlighting the impact local shopping can have, the owners and managers who run some of our downtown businesses, and safety measures businesses take to protect customers. We have also created a resource for shopping locally online.
We are a strong community. We are all in this together, and together we will get through this.
Watch a Victoria Buzz interview with Jeff Bray on the importance of supporting local businesses.
To see an archive of our letters of advocacy and member newsletters from Spring of 2020, please click here. If you are not on the member business email list and would like to be, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PANDEMIC SAFETY: STOP A THIRD WAVE
As we enter the fall and winter, cases are rising throughout BC. Businesses can, and should, take steps to ensure their location is safe for customers – and to communicate that gently for everyone’s peace of mind. Some resources to help:
- Worksafe BC – Guidelines for returning safely and operating different types of businesses;
- Small Business BC – How to create a COVID-19 safety plan;
- VIATEC – Back to the office handbook & other resources;
- Small Business BC – Up-to-date health and safety information;
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety – Downloadable tip sheets and best practices for different industries;
- City of Victoria – Signage and checklists
These resources are intended to help businesses build their digital presence and digital literacy, as well as to share best practices for reopening and recovery as they become available.
- Retail Council of Canada – Retail Recovery Playbook – Best practices to help retail businesses safely open and adjust to new demands and operating requirements;
- VIATEC – Digital Economy Rapid Response & Resiliency Program – A no-cost program to help businesses outside the tech sector explore and implement digital tools to help them survive and thrive;
- Small Business BC – Back To Business Free Webinars – these webinars are about adapting and pivoting your business to deal with the current ‘COVID economy’;
- Digital Main Street – Digital Literacy Courses – this Ontario-based program has some aspects that are only available provincially, but the three series of free online courses are available to anyone.
- Main Street Relaunch Program – help focusing on e-commerce and online marketing;
- Digital Transformation Training Program – build a digital business plan and learn necessary digital literacy skills;
- Marketing your Business in the New Economy – further information on digital business plans and skills.
- Rogers Communications – Free Online Tutorials – build your digital literacy by watching videos about website creation, social media strategies, and similar topics. All of these are free to support small businesses.
GRANT PROGRAMS AND FUNDING OPTIONS
These are various programs providing income support to businesses and wage subsidies to employers who have seen a decline in revenue due to the ongoing pandemic. Unlike the loan options in the following section, these programs are outright grants and fee deferrals.
- NEW: Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant – Grants of $1000 – $10,000 are available to hospitality and fitness businesses impacted by the March 30, 2021 PHO orders on gatherings and events and liquor and food serving premises. Grants are available until June 4, 2021 or until funds are fully expended, whichever comes first. The grant amount is based on the number of employees at the business, and applications open the week of April 12, 2021.
- BC Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant Program – grants of $10,000 to $30,000 (to $40,000 if you are a tourist business) for businesses who have experienced a demonstrable decline in revenue. (A business must be able to demonstrate a 30% revenue loss in any one month between March 2020 and present). Available until August 31, 2021 or until all $300 million in funding is allocated. Apply here!
- Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy – this revitalized rent subsidy program provides direct assistance to tenants. It subsidizes a percentage of business costs for businesses, charities, and non-profits with a revenue drop. It provides up to 65% of costs, with an additional 25% available to businesses who are or have been unable to operate due to a health order.
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy – this subsidy covers part of your employee wages if your business or organization has experienced a drop in revenue. The subsidy is retroactively available from March 15, 2020 and will operate until June 2021. Public institutions are not eligible, though non-profits and charities are able to apply. Applicants must provide data for each CEWS claim period; funds will be paid by direct deposit or by cheque.
- Work-sharing Program – provides income support for employees who collectively agree to reduce their normal hours because of developments beyond the control of their employers.
Other Relief Initiatives:
- BC Hydro has introduced a program to allow customers the option to defer payments or arrange for penalty-free flexible payment plans, recognizing that the virus has caused limits to employment and different patterns of energy use.
- Fortis BC has waived late payment fees and is offering flexible payment plans; they’re also offering free customized energy advice for small and medium businesses to help them reduce their operating costs.
- Worksafe BC will waive premiums for employers who have employees on leave and who have qualified for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
LOAN PROGRAMS FOR BUSINESSES
- Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC):
- Special Support – loans of up to $100,000 for small businesses, capital financing up to $2 million.
- Business Credit Availability Program Guarantee – up to $6.25 million loans to help cover operating costs where revenues are reduced due to the pandemic; 80% of loan will be guaranteed.
- Special Support Co-Lending program – up to $12.5 million, co-financed by BDC and your financial institution.
- Mid-Market Financing – loans between $12.5 million and $60 million for medium-sized businesses impacted by the pandemic.
- Canada Emergency Business Account – interest free loans for small businesses and not-for-profits; originally for up to $40,000, the amount available has been extended to $60,000. If the loan is repaid before December 31, 2022, up to $10,000 ($20,000 on a $60,000 loan) will be forgiven. Must apply before December 31, 2020.
- Futurpreneur – financing and business plan mentoring for entrepreneurs aged 18 – 39.
- Indigenous Business Relief – Indigenous businesses are eligible for up to $40,000 in funding: $30,000 as an interest-free loan and $10,000 as a non-repayable contribution.
- Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (Western Economic Diversification Canada) – loan program for small and medium sized businesses and women-led or -owned businesses. Interest free loan of up to $40,000 – some small businesses are eligible for an interest-free loan of up to $100,000.
- If you are a tourism operator or small- and medium-sized business or organization that has previously received Regional Development funding, please contact your local RDA office (1-888-338-9378).
- Black Entrepreneurship Program – details will follow.
OTHER PROGRAMS, RESOURCES AND INITIATIVES (INCLUDING NON-PROFIT FUNDING)
- Build Back Victoria – City of Victoria initiative to allow for expanded patios, shared use of parking spots and sidewalks, and other business-friendly developments.
- Emergency Food Security Fund – to improve access to food, including – if needed – hiring temporary help to fill volunteer shortages. The funding is distributed through 5 different national agencies – social services and charities who are working in this sector are encouraged to reach out to the agencies for emergency aid.
- Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy – funding has been expanded due to the pandemic.
- Shaw Communications has urged customers to reach out to address changing financial or connectivity needs. They have also opted to open up the Shaw Go Wifi public network to everyone, regardless of if they are a Shaw customer.
- Telus has donated tablets, devices and expanded internet/mobility coverage to support healthcare workers, seniors, students who are learning from home, and hospitalized patients. They are also sharing anonymized and aggregated data to help reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19.
- Rogers has, amongst other initiatives, launched a website – Support Local – to showcase small businesses as they adapt to the crisis.
For individuals and employees:
- Canada Recovery Benefit – payments for people in isolation/quarantine, or who have to take time off to act as a caregiver, but are not normally eligible for EI. Paid in two-week intervals, up to a total of 26 weeks, between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.
- CERB – now discontinued in favour of the Recovery Benefit, but retroactive applications are allowed until December 2, 2020.