New economic measures were announced by the Ontario government on Wednesday to help businesses most impacted by the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Among the supports are the new Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program (OBCRP) and a six-month interest-and penalty-free period to make payments for most provincially administered taxes. The six-month period will begin Jan. 1, 2022, and end July 1, 2022.
“Ontario businesses have already contributed so much to the province’s fight against COVID-19,” said Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy in a news release “We recognize that these necessary capacity limits to reduce the transmission of the virus will impact businesses, and that’s why we are introducing these new supports, which will put money directly into the hands of business and free up their cash flows during this critical time.”
According to a news release, the OBCRP will allow eligible businesses to receive payments equalling about 50 per cent of energy costs and property tax they incur while capacity restrictions remain in place. A list of eligible businesses will be released in mid-January, but smaller retail stores, restaurants and gyms are expected to qualify. Payments will be made retroactively to Dec. 19, 2021. Businesses will be required to submit property tax and energy bills with their application.
“I commend business owners for pivoting quickly as we respond to the Omicron variant in our continued fight against COVID-19,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Energy. “It is essential that we support them during their time of need, and that’s why our new rebate program will provide them with the support they need right now on their energy bills.”
The government says the six-month interest-and penalty-free measure will provide up to $7.5 billion in relief to help approximately 80,000 Ontario businesses. With this help, approximately 80,000 businesses will have the option to delay their payments for the following provincially administered taxes, helping them free up cash flow:
- Employer Health Tax
- Beer, Wine & Spirits Taxes
- Tobacco Tax
- Insurance Premium Tax
- Fuel Tax
- International Fuel Tax Agreement
- Gas Tax
- Retail Sales Tax on Insurance Contracts & Benefit Plans
- Mining Tax
- Race Tracks Tax
Capacity limits began Sunday across the province in response to surging COVID-19 cases, as a result of the Omicron variant.
Bars, restaurants, gyms and most indoor settings are limited to 50 per cent capacity, while businesses used for funerals, religious services and weddings are exempt from the capacity restrictions. Restaurants and bars must be closed by 11 p.m. each night.
The NDP says the measures announced by the Ford government are a slap in the face.
“Businesses asked for help. What they’re getting today from Doug Ford is a slap in the face. Any small, local business that desperately needs support will be gone by the time their property tax bill comes due for 2022 — some may even be gone by the time applications open in mid-January,” said finance critic Catherine Fife.
“This pandemic is happening in real-time, waiting till January to offer even a crumb of support makes it clear Ford’s not listening to mom-and-pop businesses.”
The NDP says it is proposing direct, financial grants to small local businesses so they can keep paying their staff.