COVID-19 Business Update – 13 January 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

Canada Business Sentiment Rebounds to Highest Level Since 2018

In a survey by the Bank of Canada, results show business sentiment at its highest since 2018. This rebound to above average levels at the end of last year comes amid strengthening domestic and foreign demand.

The composite gauge of sentiment rose to 1.3 in the fourth quarter, up from -2.2 in the third quarter and a decade-low of -6.9 in the second quarter. Some 67% of respondents anticipate sales growth will accelerate over next 12 months with indicators of future sales back to positive levels.

Canada-US Border Closure Extended to February 21

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed until at least Feb. 21 in an effort to curb the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Canada Strikes Deal for Extra 20 Million Doses of Pfizer’s Vaccine

Canada has struck a deal to buy an additional 20 million doses of Pfizer Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine after provinces complained about inadequate supplies.

Canada now has agreements with Pfizer and Moderna Inc for a total of 80 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered this year.

Ontario’s New COVID-19 Restrictions

As Ontario faces dangerously high COVID-19 cases that threaten more deaths than the first wave, Premier Doug Ford declared a second provincial emergency and announced new restrictions to keep the virus under control. Here’s what you need to know about the new rules that will be effective at 12:01am on Thursday:

● Ontario will be placed under a stay-at-home order, which will require everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes.
● Outdoor gatherings are restricted to five people
● Masks remain mandatory indoors and are recommended outdoors where physical distancing of more than two metres is not possible.
● All non-essential retail will be forced to close by 8pm and open no earlier than 7am
● There will be no in-class instruction until Feb. 10 at the earliest for the following public health units: Windsor-Essex, Peel Region, Toronto, York Region and Hamilton.

These restrictions will remain in place until at least February 11.

Government Expands Canada Emergency Business Account Loans

Starting December, eligible businesses facing financial difficulties due to COVID-19 can access a second CEBA loan of up to $20,000 – on top of the initial $40,000 that was available to small businesses. Half of this additional financing, up to $10,000, will be forgivable if the loan is repaid by December 31, 2022.

Applications for CEBA have been extended to March 31, 2021. More information can be found here. Alternatively, if you have any questions or require assistance, simply drop us a message.

Government Support for Businesses

The federal government continues to enact measures to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic. Here are the available assistance you can take advantage of:

Wage Subsidies
● The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) is intended to help businesses cover a portion of wages and keep employees on payroll. It continues until June 2021.
● The work-sharing program allows employees whose hours got reduced by an average of 10% to 60% to claim employment insurance for lost wages. This has been extended to 76 weeks from 38.

Rent Relief
● The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy provides rent and mortgage assistance until June 2021. Businesses can make claims retroactively for the period of Sept. 27 to Oct. 24, 2020.

Business Loans
The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) offers government-guaranteed bank loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses. The deadline for the application has been extended to March 31, 2021.
● For mid-sized companies, the Business Development Bank of Canada’s mid-market financing program provides commercial loans between $12.5 million and $60 million.

Workplace Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

The significant changes brought about by COVID-19 are expected to have long-lasting impacts on our work life. In a Forbes article, a Retained Search Advisor and Talent Specialist discussed some trends that we can expect to see in 2021 including:

Safer work environments– Employers need to have policies and procedures to make sure their workers feel safe.
Schedule flexibility– Offering flexibility doesn’t only attract and retain talent, but also boosts morale and productivity.
Virtual company culture– Online meetings, networking, and team-building in a virtual setting can promote employee engagement.
Mental health and wellness benefits– Added focus on healthcare benefit and mental wellness initiatives can serve as major differentiators in retaining your talent.
Increased online presence– Digital presence is important now more than ever and businesses should consider adopting innovative technologies and digital events.
Selective candidates– Candidates are being selective in their job moves despite higher unemployment levels. Approach with a strong initial offer as many people are hesitant to make a move amid the pandemic.
Additional cybersecurity– With a huge chunk of the workforce accessing systems from home, cyberthieves will exploit weak points to steal pertinent data. Invest in a strong IT function and ensure your workers have proper resources and support from your IT.
Local operations– As the pandemic disrupts global supply chains, there will be greater emphasis on local production and a shift in operations to a domestic level.
More innovation– Innovation will be at the forefront this year, as COVID-19 forced many businesses to pivot and innovate to stay afloat.

In order to be better suited to face obstacles that may lie ahead, it is important to adapt and make changes to the workplace. If you need expert tips, get in touch with us so we can work out a plan for your specific situation.

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