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.

  • What is the HASCAP loan Guarantee and how do I get it?

    The HASCAP Guarantee is a federal government support program to help the businesses hardest-hit by Covid-19.  This program is available to all eligible retailers, regardless of sector.

    Retailers can apply through their primary financial institutions for a HASCAP loan of $25,000 – $1M to cover their operational expenses. The government (BDC) will provide a 100% net loss guarantee to make it easier for these retailers to secure a loan.

    To qualify, a retailer must, among other criteria:

    • be a commercial enterprise whose intent is to generate revenue from the sale of goods or services that is at least sufficient to cover its operating expenses and service its debt
    • have been financially stable and viable prior to the current economic environment
    • not have an impaired loan (as determined in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards) as at March 1, 2020, or the eligible loan closing date

    Retailers must also demonstrate significant revenue decline and, if eligible, apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS).

    Generally, HASCAP Guarantee applicants must provide proof of at least three months of monthly year-over-year revenue decrease of a minimum of 50% per month, within the 8-month period prior to the date of the HASCAP Guarantee application

    View more HASCAP Guarantee information.

  • What does the HASCAP Guarantee offer?

    • Loan amount between $25,000 and $1M per legal entity
      • Maximum combined eligibility of $6.25 million for related legal entities
    • Up to 10-year repayment term
    • 4% fixed interest rate
    • Up to 12-month postponement of principal repayments at the start of the loan
    • No personal guarantee will be taken to secure the loan

    View more HASCAP Guarantee information.

  • As a retailer, can I qualify for the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) Guarantee?

    This program, despite its name, has sector-agnostic application criteria. In other words, the sector you are in is irrelevant to the loan application.

    Criteria are mainly financial and include your ability to demonstrate the pandemic’s significant negative financial impact on your business.

  • Does it impact my HASCAP Guarantee eligibility if I am already getting the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), or if I have not yet applied for the CEWS or CERS?

    Generally, you need to apply and be eligible for the CERS and CEWS in order to access the HASCAP Guarantee. You can have the CEWS and CERS already and still apply for the HASCAP Guarantee.

    If you are not eligible for the CEWS or CERS, you can still apply for the HASCAP Guarantee. It is best to apply to all three through your primary financial services provider.

    If your business has received the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) or the Canadian Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS):

    You must provide Canada Revenue Agency attestation forms demonstrating a minimum 50% revenue decline, for at least 3 months, within the 8 month period prior to the date of your HASCAP Guarantee applications. Your financial institution will require this information to process your request.

    If your business did not receive CEWS or CERS and is eligible for them: You must apply for CEWS or CERS. Your financial institution will require this information to process your request.

    If your business does not qualify for CEWS or CERS: You must provide financial statements that reflect at least three months (which do not need to be consecutive) of monthly year-over-year revenue decrease of a minimum of 50% per month, within the 8-month period prior to the date of the HASCAP Guarantee application. Your financial institution will require this information to process your request.

    View more HASCAP Guarantee information.

  • Where can I find comprehensive information on keeping businesses and employees safe?

    Comprehensive information how businesses and employees can stay safe while operating during COVID-19 from the Public Health Agency of Canada is here.

  • What individual federal-support programs exist to replace the CERB?

    The federal government created four programs to replace the CERB. These include a revised form of Employment Insurance (EI), the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit. See RCC’s guide to current income support programs.

  • What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and can I apply retroactively?

    The CERB was a federal COVID-19 income-support benefit for individuals. It provided $500/week payments covering part of 2020 and has now ended. Retroactive applications closed on December 2, 2020. 

  • If I have an employee who is diagnosed with COVID-19, what do I do?

    • The health care provider who makes the diagnosis has the obligation to call and inform Public Health right away. 
    • The Public Health official will conduct the investigation and contact the employer, notifying them about the investigation. 
    • Any disclosure to other employees must respect privacy legislation and be done in accordance with advice from the public health unit.
    • Requirements vary by jurisdiction.  At a minimum, restrict access to area(s) the employee worked and comprehensively disinfect the premises using a Health Canada-approved disinfectant.
    • Continue to practice physical distancing, regular handwashing and other regularly prescribed COVID-19 mitigation protocols
    • Generally, an employer is not obligated to inform customers. Public Health officials will conduct an investigation and provide the required follow-up. 

    RCC has an incident checklist for retailers dealing with a positive COVID-19 case. View checklist.

    Vancouver Coastal Health has a useful resource guide on response to employee sickness or positive COVID-19 diagnosis

  • Can retailers screen customers at the door for entry, e.g. with temperature testing?

    Individual screening, such as temperature testing, is technically permissible, yet must be approached very carefully. Be aware that government guidance in this area is sparse yet rapidly evolving. First, avoid any impression of screening customers for any reason beyond a belief that the customer may be exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Second, if it is felt that temperature testing is advantageous, take great care to do so in accordance with Canadian privacy principles, e.g. be mindful of consent and of limiting and protecting the personal information that is obtained and shared. Also, staff taking customer temperatures must continue to follow the usual care in observing 2-metre physical distancing limits and other health precautions.

  • My employee is invoking their “right to refuse” unsafe work – what do I do?

    Under provincial Occupational Health and Safety legislation, employees have a right to refuse work if they have reasonable grounds to believe it is dangerous to their health or safety. Remind your employees of the preventive measures that have been put in place, and the safety products available to them. This may help mitigate instances of employees refusing to work due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

     Every employee has a duty to report any dangerous situation to their supervisor. The employer then has a duty to take remedial action by having the workplace health and safety committee and/or representative investigate. In some cases, a government health and safety officer may need to investigate as well. 

    In some provinces, when one employee has made a report that an activity is ‘unsafe work’, until that report is resolved you may have an obligation either (a) to inform, or (b) not to ask other employees to undertake the alleged ‘unsafe work’ until the ‘unsafe work report’ is complete.

     The employer may choose to reassign work. In this case, the employee must receive the same wages and benefits as they would have received under their previous assignment.  

  • What are the limits in different regions for the number of people inside a retail store at any one time?

    The occupancy rules vary by province.  Generally, the rules in various jurisdictions require 2-metres physical distance between all customers and employees at all times.   Various provinces have different requirements based upon either the number of people per square metre, or, percentage of the fire code occupancy limit. See “Maximum number of people in store” in RCC’s COVID-19 Requirements for Retailers guide. 

  • What are the obligations of my employees?

    Employees must take the necessary steps to protect their own health and wellbeing and that of their co-workers. Employees must comply with any preventive measures put in place by the employer (use of personal protective equipment, follow hygiene requirements, etc.), and they must report hazards to their employers. The possibility they may have been exposed to the virus or are displaying COVID-19 symptoms is a workplace hazard that must be reported to the employer immediately. RCC SOPs on workplace safety can be found here.

  • What can I do as a retailer to create the safest possible COVID-19 work environment for my employees? What safety measures must/should I put in place for my employees?

    For more detail, RCC SOPs on workplace safety can be found here.

    • Most jurisdictions require worker screening for symptoms prior to entry into the workplace.  Workers who fail screening should not enter the store or office, and should put on a mask before going home. 
    • Employees and customers who are ill must be informed (signage) not to enter the store. 
    • Many jurisdictions require employees and customers to wear masks in indoor public spaces.  See RCC’s Mask Requirement page. 
    • Break rooms, lockers and employee gathering places such as offices are proven to be places where the virus is most often spread in workplaces. Where possible, schedule breaks and lunch hours at staggered times to reduce interactions.  Ensure physical distancing in break rooms, change rooms, outdoor smoking areas, and offices. 
    • Where employees must carpool to and from work together, try to start and end their shifts at the same time to reduce their interaction with other employees. 
    • Enhance the workplace sanitation plan and schedule, and ensure staff are practicing proper hygiene. This includes frequent hand washing, coughing or sneezing into an elbow rather than a hand, and avoiding touching one’s face. 
    • Ensure the washrooms are always well stocked with liquid soap and paper towels and that warm running water is available. Antibacterial soap is not recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
    • Provide clean carry-out bags for purchased products while respecting provincial and local laws. You may choose to enact a policy that customer packaging (reusable bags, containers, cups or boxes) will not be handled by workers. 
    • Use a physical queue line controls such as markers or cordons at entrances and in checkout lines inside stores. 
    • Place markers every 2 metres at checkouts and entrances to provide customers with visible cues that support physical distancing.  
    • Place alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers near doors, payment stations and other high-touch locations for customer and staff use, making wipes and trash bins available for wiping shopping carts and disposing of the wipes.  
    • Have clear signs at each entrance that indicate the maximum number of customers and staff a store can accommodate at any one time.  
    • Monitor the number of customers and staff entering and leaving the store. Once the maximum number of persons for a store is reached, allow one person in for every person that leaves.  
    • Offer online or telephone orders with delivery or pick-up services as alternatives to shopping in person.  
    • Clean high touch surfaces such as pay stations, bagging areas and carts or hand baskets between each customer and use and encourage tap payment over pin pad use.  
    • Limit the handling of credit cards and loyalty cards wherever possible, by allowing customers to scan.  
    • Employees who handle cash or credit card must wash their hands frequently with soap and water. This includes before any breaks, at the end of their shift, and before preparing food.  
    • Should operators and employees choose to use gloves, employees must wash their hands thoroughly before putting on the gloves and change them regularly. Change the gloves before you handle money or credit card machines, and afterward. Wearing gloves does not reduce the need for hand washing. Even while wearing gloves, employees must avoid touching the face. 

    Vancouver Coastal Health has a useful resource guide on response to employee sickness or positive COVID-19 diagnosis

  • How long do I leave returned products aside before I can safely re-sell them?

    There is no consistency amongst jurisdictions on this question. See “Returns” in RCC’s COVID-19 Requirements for Retailers guide.

  • My employees are receiving government income support and do not wish to return to work in my store, but I need them now. What do I do?

    In general, a refusal to return to work is deemed to be a resignation. Employers are empowered to treat an employee’s refusal that way, although it would be best to determine if there are special circumstances influencing an employee’s refusal to return, for example: is the employee a caregiver? Are they at high risk for COVID-19?  Therefore, we recommend that you exercise caution and have an active dialogue with your employees before you make a termination. 

     If special circumstances do exist, explore how the employee can be accommodated within the workplace. Whatever you decide in the end, document your exchanges about accommodation and keep them on file. 

  • Is there a health and safety risk presented by the handling of cash money or credit cards?

    The Bank of Canada has advocated for retailers to continue to accept cash to ensure Canadians can have access to the goods and services they need, particularly for those that might be “unbanked”. However, cash is handled many times and therefore can present some risk.

    Ensure employees frequently wash their hands and have access to single use gloves, hand sanitizer and that they avoid touching their faces. “Tap” contactless payments are encouraged wherever possible.

  • What are a retailer’s rights to deny entry to someone refusing to wear a mask?

    • Laws vary from province to province. On a broad basis, retailers are required to make best efforts to ensure that people are wearing a mask when entering a retail environment
    • Retailers should control entry into their premises in ways that are reasonable and not discriminatory
    • In addition to legal obligations, public relations and customer relations considerations should be thought through.

    If a customer refuses to wear a mask, depending on jurisdiction, you may be obligated to point them to alternative options such as curbside pick-up and/or delivery rather than allowing them into the store without a mask. Please refer to RCC’s Mask Requirements by Region page for more information.

  • Are employees whose hours have been reduced as a result of COVID-19 eligible for any benefit programs?  

    Yes. As an employer, consider looking into the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The CEWS could help cover their costs to you. As individuals, your employees can look into federal individual income support programs. Try to avoid a situation in which employees whose jobs are subsidized by the CEWS through you, the employer, are also receiving federal income support personally. Some of that money may need to be paid back.

    EI Work-Share is another option: employers can reduce hours while employees receive EI Work Share benefits.

    Some regional governments have also released COVID-19 relief measures for individuals, including sometimes for workers. These vary by region and include one-time payments to individuals and changes to employment law regimes. For more information, see RCC’s CEWS overview and RCC’s Relief Measures by Region.

  • Can I require a doctor’s note if an employee says they have COVID-19 or related symptoms?

    Doctor’s note requirements for these kinds of sick leaves vary by region. Regional requirements are listed below. (For time off specifically for vaccinations, rules may be different).

    BC: Generally, employers should not request a medical note.  

    Alberta: No doctor’s note required. 

    Saskatchewan: No doctor’s note required 

    Manitoba: No doctor’s note required. 

    Quebec: Employers can still ask for a doctor’s note, but it is recommended employers show flexibility during COVID-19.  

    Ontario: Employers cannot ask for a doctor’s note for sick leaves related to COVID-19. There is no restriction on an employer’s ability to request a doctor’s note for returning to work

    NS: No doctor’s note required.   

    NB: Employers can require a doctor’s note.  

    PEI: No doctor’s note required.  

    Nfld and Lab: Employee must provide employer with evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances for needing to take the leave, but the employer cannot require a doctor’s note. 

  • What types of disinfectants should be used?

    A list of Health Canada-approved disinfectants can be found here

  • When we reopen, are there any requirements as to how I recall staff? I’m assuming that I will be bringing back staff in phases, as business ramps up. Do I have to call people with seniority back first? Full time before part time? Or can I just call back whoever I think I need to operate best?

    It’s important to review your staff contracts.  Unless you have a collective agreement that speaks to this (especially seniority) in a unionized setting, then you would be able to choose who to bring back and in what order.

  • How can retailers help reinforce mask wearing in their stores while keeping their employees safe?

    If a customer refuses to wear a mask, depending on jurisdiction, you may be obligated to point them to alternative options such as curbside pick-up and/or delivery rather than allowing them into the store without a mask. Please refer to RCC’s Mask Requirements by Region page for more information.

    • Clearly communicate the need to wear a mask in store via all means including your website, social media and in-store signage. 
    • Indicate how your business can accommodate customers who cannot wear a mask (e.g. curbside pick-up).
    • Have a policy prepared in the event of an escalated situation so that staff know how to handle the situation.
    • Politely ask the customer to reconsider wearing a mask if they are refusing to do so. 
    • Retailers should be mindful that there may not be a viable legal defence to protect them in the event of a physical altercation (e.g. a defence of necessity or avoidance of greater harm).   
    • If a physical altercation ensues, law enforcement should be called immediately. View CDC US guidance on how to deal with ‘anti-mask’ customers: Limiting workplace violence associated with COVID-19

  • Employees are experiencing very chapped hands because of all the extra handwashing they are doing to combat the spread of COVID-19. Without asking them to wash their hands less, what can we do?

    Regular handwashing is necessary and must be continued.  However, people can wash their hands with warm water, instead of very hot water, and they can apply hand lotion afterwards.  With many people also taking the precaution of wearing gloves at work, hand washing in warm water at home and applying moisturizer then is also especially helpful.

  • What are retail best practices for gathering and sharing personal health information in response to COVID-19?

    The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has released general COVID-19 guidance on privacy obligations in information-sharing situations during the pandemic. The OPC guidance also includes links to regional privacy regulators’ resources. This is helpful if you are trying to decide how much of someone’s personal information to collect, e.g. if they are sick or you think they might be, and when to share their information with another organization.

    Even during the pandemic response, normal privacy laws apply unless emergency legislation provides otherwise.

    PIPEDA, which applies to many retailers, only allows you to collect, use or disclose personal information based on meaningful consent and for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances. Generally, exceptions apply when (1) a person is critically ill, (2) where a public health authority with legislative authority to request the information is asking (it’s key to check if they’re actually authorized to ask you), and if (3) you think someone is breaking a quarantine order. View OPC guidance.

  • I received the CERB but am worried I might have to pay them back. What do I have to look out for?

    There are several circumstances in which individuals may have to pay back their CERB payments. These include:

    • If you returned to work earlier than you expected, or you received retroactive pay from your employer.
      • Mainly, if your employer was paying you by receiving the federal Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), you are not supposed to receive the CERB for the same time period.
    • If you applied for the CERB but later realized you were not eligible.
    • If you received a payment from both Service Canada and the CRA for the same period.  

    The Canada Revenue Agency was encouraging people who needed to repay their CERB to do so by December 31, 2020. View more information.

  • What is the federal government offering in terms of wage subsidies for retailers?

    The federal government established the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to help employers keep staff on payroll despite revenue declines caused by COVID-19.  

    CEWS support takes the form of government subsidies based on specific criteria that include revenue reduction levels. First established in the early stages of the pandemic, the CEWS program has undergone various developments and extensions since then.

    Now extended until September 2021, subsidies from the CEWS program will be reduced gradually starting July 2021. Starting June 2021, publicly listed companies that receive the CEWS but whose senior executives receive higher compensation in 2021 than they did pre-COVID (2019) will have to return the excess in executive compensation to the government.

    View RCC’s CEWS overview.

  • I am not sure what code to put in ROEs for employees whose loss of work is connected to COVID-19. Can you provide clarity?

    Generally, if shortage of work is why you are laying them off, i.e. you have closed your retail business or have reduced operations, use code A (Shortage of Work). If the person is sick or in mandated quarantine, use code D (Illness or Injury). If the employee refuses to come to work but is not sick or quarantined, use code E (Quit) or code N (Leave of absence), as appropriate. To expedite processing, do not add comments.

    For more Q&As specifically on ROE coding and other payroll questions arising from COVID-19, see COVID-19 Canadian Payroll Association guidance.

  • What government support is available for retail businesses?

    The federal government has announced a series of financial relief measures for businesses affected by COVID-19. These include tax deferrals, wage and rent subsidies for employers, benefits for individuals out of work due to COVID-19 and easier avenues to credit for business. 

    Several provincial governments have also introduced various forms of financial relief which vary by region. For comprehensive information on each jurisdiction, see RCC’s Relief Measures by Region

  • As a retailer, would I need a Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL) to sell masks?

    A retailer would not require an MDEL to sell to the public. However, if they sell masks to a hospital or health care facility, they would be considered a medical device distributor and would require an MDEL.

  • It’s hard to find PPE (personal protective equipment). Where can I find items like hand sanitizer and masks?

    RCC has a Retail Supplier Directory and will be continually adding more PPE suppliers.

    Some regions have set up provincial PPE supplier directories which you can view in RCC’s chart here.

  • What is EI Work-Share?

    EI Work-Share is a program to help employers and employees through tough times by allowing employers to have staff on reduced hours while the staff (there must be a minimum of 2 employees in a work share unit) are supported through the EI framework. EI Work-Share is based on an agreement between employees, employers and Service Canada. The maximum length of this form of support (i.e. of EI Work-Share agreements under COVID-19 special measures) has been doubled to over a year (76 weeks).

  • Can I have employees on Work-Share and receive the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for them at the same time?

    Employers can combine the CEWS and the WS program. However, WS benefits received by employees will reduce the amount of CEWS on a dollar for dollar basis. For example, an employer eligible for $500 in CEWS with an employee who received $275 through WS benefits, would receive a subsidy of $225 ($500 – $275).

    For further information regarding the interaction between WS and CEWS you can find more information on the government’s site. View information.

  • Given the uncertainties of COVID-19, is an estimate of anticipated percent reduction of work hours acceptable?

    Yes, an estimate is fine.

  • 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 during a monthly claim period. The CERS program also includes a Lockdown Support top-up for locations affected by lockdown orders.

    Although the CERS program has been extended until September 2021, base subsidies from the CERS program will decrease and will only be available to retailers experiencing revenue declines over 10% starting July 2021. CERS Lockdown Support will remain available until the end of the program at its current 25% rate. Retailers should be aware that if they no longer qualify for the base CERS subsidy, they will also not qualify for lockdown support.

    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.

  • Should I apply for business interruption insurance coverage due to effects of COVID-19 on my retail store(s)?

    Yes, you should apply if your stores are closed or have otherwise been significantly affected by COVID-19. For example, even if an anchor tenant in your shopping centre has closed due to COVID-19 and it affects you, apply. Recent case law is evolving on insurance coverage in this area. It is wise to give your insurance company notice now by applying for coverage, so as not to preclude yourself unintentionally from potential benefits later, even if you anticipate a denial of coverage at this time.

  • Do retailers need a separate application for each location, or can a Work-Share agreement apply to staff across multiple store locations?

    If the stores have separate ownership, e.g. if they have different business numbers, then they have to submit separate applications.  If they all fall under one business number, then one application can be submitted, with each of the Work-Sharing units documenting on a separate Attachment A.

  • What do I do if I am asked to share someone’s health information with a public health authority to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic?

    Retailers may receive requests from other organizations to share information that would identify an individual. Few circumstances legally require a private company to share someone’s health information with the government.

    Before you share any information, verify whether the organization, e.g., a health authority, has a legal basis for requesting it, or if they are just asking you to cooperate.

    If you do share a person’s information, assess the request carefully. Taking care what information you release, why, and to whom will help you reduce regulatory, litigation and reputational risk. Whether you are legally required to share someone’s personal information or not, documenting how you analyzed privacy considerations in the process of deciding to share that information would be wise. Privacy principles such as accountability, transparency, consent and limiting data collection and sharing still apply. View more legal information

  • 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.

    The CERS program has been extended until September 25, 2021. Although the base subsidy will see phased reductions starting in July, the lockdown subsidy rate will remain as it is now, at 25%, until September 2021. Retailers should be aware that if they no longer qualify for the base CERS subsidy, they will also not be eligible to apply for lockdown support.

    RCC’s overview contains more information. 

  • What are the Lockdown Support eligibility requirements?

    To qualify for lockdown support, you must have:

    • a base rent subsidy rate of more than 0% for the claim period (ie. you need to qualify as an organization for the base rent subsidy)
    • one or more locations temporarily closed, or have activities significantly restricted for a week or longer due to a COVID-19-related public health order

    An order must require you to stop some or all of your regular activities. An order that restricts or reduces activities but doesn’t specifically require you to close or stop certain activities does not qualify for lockdown support.

    For example, restrictions due to the following orders would not qualify for lockdown support:

    • travel restrictions that reduce the number of customers
    • restricted or reduced service hours or hours of operation
    • reduced seating capacity or other physical distancing strategies

  • What kind of restrictions from a COVID-19-related public health order are eligible for Lockdown Support?

    An order must require you to stop some or all of your regular activities. An order that restricts or reduces activities but doesn’t specifically require you to close or stop certain activities does not qualify for lockdown support.

    For example, the following orders would not qualify for lockdown support:

    • travel restrictions that reduce the number of customers
    • restricted or reduced service hours or hours of operation
    • reduced seating capacity or other physical distancing strategies

  • 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.

    The CERS program has been extended until September 25, 2021. Although the base subsidy will see phased reductions starting in July, the lockdown support rate will remain as it is now at 25%, until September 2021. However, retailers should be aware that if they no longer qualify for the base CERS subsidy, they will also not be eligible to apply for lockdown support.

    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.

  • What regulations should I be aware of if I want to sell non-medical masks in Canada? Are there any specific Health Canada regulatory safety requirements for “fashion face masks/covers”?

    There are no regulations specific to a fashion face covering or mask. However, it’s important to know that masks are assumed to be medical devices unless it is explicitly clear on the labelling that they are not intended for medical use. Additionally, the same regulations that would apply to any product being sold in Canada are still applicable. View Regulatory requirements for non-medical masks/fashion face coverings more info.

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

    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 being done to ensure better access to credit for mid-size and large retailers?

    The federal Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) and the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) provide eligible mid-size and large retailers with government-backed credit solutions. For more information on BCAP and LEEFF, see the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the BDC and the EDC. 

    Interested retailers should speak to their banks. 

  • If features are added to the mask such as a valve, filter, or wire around the nose would that change anything about my ability to sell the masks?

    Adding any extra features would not necessarily change the requirements. A retailer would still need to ensure the product is clearly labelled that it is not intended for medical use and not pose a danger to human health or safety.

  • How long will Lockdown Support be available, and at what level?

    Lockdown support will remain available at the current 25% rate until September 25, 2021.  

    Retailers should be aware that from July 2021 on, they will need to show revenue decline over 10% to qualify for the base CERS subsidy. If they do not qualify, they will also not be eligible for lockdown support.

  • With increases in eCommerce and remote work, what can independent retailers do to protect themselves against fraud and cybersecurity risks during COVID-19?

    Phishing, videoconferencing vulnerabilities, malware and simple mistakes are only some of the increased cybersecurity risks.

    Retailers seeking to protect themselves against heightened fraud and cybersecurity risk must look to their people (e.g. training), processes (e.g. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies) and technologies (e.g. updated virus protection, videoconferencing safety).

    Keep in mind that not all fraud risks are necessarily cyber risks. For example, reported COVID-19 scams include fraudsters posing as public health agencies to get personal information (retailers should always check that someone asking them for this data has legal authority to do so) and posing as vendors selling COVID-19 tests. 

    Read more:

    Cybersecurity guidance specifically for small and medium businesses exists and could be useful to many independent retailers. View resources.

  • What is being done to ensure that where there may be product shortages, e.g. for hand sanitizer, alternative brands can be sourced?

    Governments across the country are working with local manufacturers, food producers and distilleries who have capabilities to produce these goods to do so in a manner that is approved by Canadian health standards so that retailers can have stocked shelves and that our supply chains remain strong.

    We continue to remind customers to only buy what they need.  This is especially important since people who purchase items in unnecessarily large quantities cause shelves to be emptied much more quickly and add pressure to already stressed eCommerce systems.

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

    Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) Service Canada has created an inquiry unit for employers affected by COVID-19 that are seeking general information related to the Work-Sharing Program. Inquiries can be sent to edsc.dgop.tp.rep-res.ws.pob.esdc@servicecanada.gc.ca.

    For more information including telephone numbers and hours, view Work-Share website.

  • 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.

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

    CEBA is a federal, interest-free, partially forgivable loan program available to smaller businesses. CEBA eligibility requires a maximum 2019 payroll of $1.5 million and there is a separate stream for businesses with total 2019 employment income paid 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 up to $60,000, of which up to $20,000 will be forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022. The deadline to apply for a CEBA loan has been extended to June 30, 2021. 

    View RCC’s CEBA overview for more information.

  • What is the Canada Recovery Hiring Program?

    To help retailers experiencing revenue reductions to hire and retain staff, the Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP) hiring subsidy will be available to subsidize payroll at eligible employers between June 6 and November 20, 2021.

    The CRHP will begin by paying up to 50% of incremental costs for active employees and will ramp down this subsidy rate to 20% by November. Eligible employers may claim either CRHP or CEWS for a particular qualifying period, but not both.

    View RCC’s CHRP Overview

  • Can I still apply for an extra $20,000 if I already paid off my first CEBA loan?

    Yes, you can. You will need to apply through the bank that provided you with your initial CEBA loan.

  • What are examples of medical conditions that prevents people from wearing a mask or face covering?

    • People who are unable to put it on or take it off by themselves due to a physical disability, 
    • People with facial deformities, 
    • Peoples who, due to cognitive impairment, an intellectual disability, an autism spectrum disorder, an addiction problem or a severe mental health problem, are unable to understand the requirement or for whom wearing a mask or face covering causes significant disorganization or distress, 
    • People who have a severe skin condition on the face or ears that is significantly aggravated by wearing a mask or face covering. 

  • 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 role for face shields as a public health tool?

    Currently, PHAC has advised that face shields alone do not provide either personal protection or source control, and should only be used if a mask cannot be worn (and then only if they wrap around the face and cover the chin). This is consistent with many other major organizations, including the US CDC and the World Health OrganizationFace shields are only effective when worn along with masks.   

  • How can I get help paying my staff if the CEWS subsidies are going away this summer?

    To help retailers experiencing revenue reductions to hire and retain staff, the Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP) will be available to eligible employers to subsidize payroll between June 6 and November 20, 2021.

    The CRHP will begin by paying up to 50% of incremental costs for active employees. Eligible employers may claim either CRHP or CEWS for a particular qualifying period, but not both.

    Eligible remuneration includes salary, wages, and other remuneration for which employers are required to withhold income taxes – and is limited to $1129/week per employee.

    View RCC’s CHRP Overview

  • Be heard. Save money. Stay informed.

    Become a member