Q & As for Retailers on COVID-19

Below are answers to our members’ most frequently asked questions concerning ways to work through COVID-19 and its operational challenges and implications. We update these questions & answers daily as new information becomes available. You can search questions below with the most recently updated appearing first or switch tabs to view by category.

  • How do I contact Service Canada to get specific information on detailed Work-Share questions?

    Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has established a Work-Share Rapid Response team. You can send them general inquiries on your specific situation by email: [email protected].

    Applications for the program can also be made over email, by region. View application.

  • Assuming that EI Work-Share benefits are not necessarily going to match the employee’s previous income, are Supplementary Unemployment Benefits (SUB) an option?

    No, this is not eligible with the Work-Sharing program. The utilization of Supplementary Unemployment Benefits (SUBs) in conjunction with WS benefits is not allowable due to the fact that WS participants are considered employed.

  • If we have team members on the Work-Share program, but we end up having to lay them off completely, will being on the Work-Share program impact their EI benefits and the duration of being on EI?

    WS participation normally would not impact the benefit rate and the normal duration of an EI claim if an employee is laid off during the Work-Share agreement, or at its end.

    WS benefits are not regular benefits, so WS participation doesn’t exhaust any employee entitlement to regular or special EI benefits if only WS benefits were paid. Also, EI employee benefits are based on the employee’s original ROE, not on the WS hours. 

  • I am a retailer but have restaurant seating, so am following regional contact tracing requirements to capture contact information from seated diner groups. Any best practice tips?

    • Generally, collect as little information as possible and keep it for as short a time as possible. Read the order closely. If it says something like, ‘Gather name and phone number from one person per party,” take only that.
    • Store the contact information you collect somewhere secure. ‘Analogue’ methods include writing the information in a book and storing that book behind lock and key overnight. If you choose to use a digital method of collection and storage, such as a reservation app, do some quick research to understand more about how this third party will treat your customer information: will they keep it safe without using it for additional purposes? (Generally, retailers can still be held accountable for what happens to personal information that they collect and then share with other companies).
    • Delete the information after the required time period.
    • If someone asks you for this information for contact tracing purposes, make sure you get some evidence from them that they are from a public health authority with the power to make this request. If and when you do share information you’ve collected, it’s wise to document why you did so and who you shared it with. There are privacy regulators empowered to make inquiries if someone complains that you mishandled their personal information, in which case having records and demonstrating good practice could help you.

  • How do I approach cyber insurance and risk management?

    Retailers may wish to consider cyber insurance, or to assess their current coverage if they already have it. The cyber insurance market is evolving rapidly.

    If you choose to improve your cyber maturity during this period, be aware that sensitive communications on cyber risk might be subject to disclosure requirements in regulatory investigations and litigation if a cyber incident occurs. Consider implementing a legal privilege strategy as you navigate cyber risk management so that your communications are privileged, where appropriate. View more information and links to Canadian COVID-19 fraud and cybersecurity guidance.

  • What is the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and how will it help retailers?

    The CERS is a federal rent and property expense support program to help businesses affected by COVID-19.  If eligible, retailers will receive direct support from the federal government. CERS replaces the previous federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program (CECRA).

    Retailers can apply based on a maximum of $75,000 in eligible expenses for each location, with an overall eligible expenses maximum of $300,000 across affiliated entities for the base subsidy.

    The amount of subsidy money a retailer can receive to help with those eligible expenses varies by criteria linked to the decline in revenue that the retailer has experienced on a monthly basis. The CERS program also includes a Lockdown Support top-up for locations affected by lockdown orders.

    RCC’s overview goes into more detail and the government website has a calculator that helps retailers calculate what they can receive based on the specifics of their situation.

    View RCC’s CERS overview

    View emergency rent subsidy calculator

  • How do I apply for the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS)?

    The CERS program, including Lockdown Support, is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on a period-by-period basis, with each period spanning 4 weeks.

    Applications are to be made online after the relevant subsidy claim periods have passed. Retailers will need to apply through the CRA via MyBusiness Account (MyBA) OR Represent a Client.

  • What is the “lockdown top-up,” or “lockdown support”?

    Lockdown top-up refers to extra support available through the federal CERS rent relief program for retailers subject to COVID-19-related public health orders.

    If you must close or cease certain activities at one or more of your locations under a public health order for one week or longer, you may be eligible for lockdown support of up to 25% of eligible expenses per affected location based on the days the order was in place.

    RCC’s overview contains more information. 

  • What is the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and how can it help smaller retailers?

    The CEBA is a federal interest-free, partially forgivable loan program available to smaller retail businesses during COVID-19. CEBA eligibility requires a maximum 2019 payroll of $1.5 million and there is a separate stream for businesses with payrolls at or below $20,000. 

    Eligible retailers can receive interest-free CEBA loans of up to $40,000. If repaid by December 31, 2022, 25% of the loan will be forgivable (up to $10,000). The government has also made an additional $20,000 loan available. 50% of this second loan, i.e. up to $10,000, is also forgivable if repaid by the December 2022 deadline. 

    In total, the CEBA offers retailers an interest-free loan of $60,000, of which $20,000 will be forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022. The deadline to apply for a CEBA loan has been extended to March 31, 2021. 

    View RCC’s CEBA overview for more information.

  • How is Lockdown Support calculated?

    Retailers who already qualify for the base Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) amount for a claim period, and who had locations subject to a public health lockdown order during that period for at least a week, may receive a Lockdown Support top-up for eligible expenses at each location.

    To receive Lockdown Support, your location needs to have been subject to a lockdown order for a minimum of 7 days that required stopping some or all regular activities. That location needs to have suffered a revenue decline of approximately 25% or more.  Reductions in operating hours and foot traffic capacity would not count for the Lockdown Support top-up, but mandated brick-and-store closures likely would, even if your location(s) continued to do curbside pickup.

    For example, if one of your stores was on lockdown for 7 days of the 28 day period, you would be eligible to receive Lockdown Support at the rate below:

    • 25% base top-up rate multiplied by
    • 7 days out of 28
    • for a 6.25% top-up rate.

    At whatever your rate turns out to be, you can claim a maximum of $75,000 in eligible expenses per location for Lockdown Support, for as many locations as you need. This is in contrast to the $300,000 maximum cap in eligible expenses you can claim across your organisation per claim period, a cap that only applies to the base CERS subsidy.

    RCC’s overview contains more information and the government website has a calculator to help you plan based on your specific circumstances.  View RCC Overview. View calculator.

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