COVID-19 & Your Business

COVID-19 & Your Business

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks in business, in communities, on the markets – globally. It’s become clear that COVID-19 is going to have a huge impact on businesses, and we’re all worried about the future. Should COVID-19 escalate in this region, we’ve assembled information in key areas that businesses should consider in order to prepare effectively.  The sources we’ve provided here have credible, business-relevant and science-based information to help you stay safe, and to help your business prepare for the reality of a global pandemic.

Membership Has Its Benefits! Did you know that Chamber Members have access to discounted teleconferencing rates through Pragmatic (to help with social distancing), and competitively priced Group Health Insurance through the ChambersPlan for even the smallest of businesses?  The ChambersPlan includes a Teladoc service that gives you access to medical professionals via phone 24/7!  Contact Susan for details via email or at 902-625-1588.


Call to Action for Businesses to Fight COVID-19! Nova Scotia Business Inc has expanded on the Call to Action for businesses that could help with capacity and research to combat the impact of COVID-19. They’ve highlighted procurement, innovation, and research here. Ask yourself – can your business help with the fight?!


Business owners and employees are used to going above and beyond to help their communities.  Their COVID-19 response is no different, with many closing as a preventative measure, and others adjusting their business models and providing services in a different way to help protect public health and safety.


To support small business, and to give the public safer access to the things they need, we’ve created two regional open Facebook groups that any business can post in to let people know that they either provide a delivery service, take out, or some other means of contributing to public safety.  This includes all sorts of businesses from restaurants, to technology firms, to hardware stores, and everything in between!  If you’re providing a a product or service that will help people stay safe during the outbreak, please post in the group where you’re located (feel free to post in both if that makes sense for your business)!


Businesses that Deliver – Southern Cape Breton/Northern Mainland


Businesses that Deliver – Northern Cape Breton


GOVERNMENT PROGRAM DETAILS – We’re continuing to work with our provincial and federal representatives to press for the details on relief programs announced, including the federal wage subsidy which will be administered through CRA, the BCAP loan, and the Emergency Care Benefit – how do employers access them, etc. Results will be posted as identified.


WORKING REMOTELY – As a Chamber Member, you have access to discounted teleconferencing rates through Pragmatic (to help with social distancing and self-isolation). Call Susan at 902-625-1588 for details.


ACCESS TO PHYSICIANS – As a Chamber Member, you have access to the ChambersPlan Group Health Insurance which includes a Teladoc service that gives you access to medical professionals via phone 24/7! The plan administration recently released an update and hosted a webinar on Building Resilience to COVID-19.  Call Susan at 902-625-1588 for details.


CREDIT CARD PROCESSING FEES – The Chamber’s Point of Sale system partner, First Data, has started to offer relief to merchants who have been hit hard by COVID-19 and will continue to monitor the situation. If your credit card processing fees are significantly increasing, call the customer support line at 1-888-263-1938 to speak with a loyalty expert. We’re working with our regional and national counterparts to pressure other point of sale companies nationally to do the same.


GENERAL ADVOCACY – Through our affiliation with the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, we are participating in conversations with Minister Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages on key advocacy issues. These include:

  • HOW to access the government relief programs announced.
  • Avoiding the increase of debt load on small businesses.
  • Increasing the wage subsidy (10% was too low – so we were more than pleased to see the Prime Minister increase that subsidy to 75%).
  • Providing a payroll tax holiday for at least 60 days.
  • Government working with big banks to clarify relief they can provide on loans, mortgage payments, zero or low-cost lines or credit, interest-free credit card period, etc. and to provide merchant fee relief on the base and per transaction costs of using these systems as many are moving to do more online to protect employees, clients and public.
  • Providing HST Rebates or deferrals to help cash flow
  • Keeping Fed./ Prov. Government supplier and funding contracts going to ensure that businesses can earn money to pay employees instead of people getting laid off and resorting tor EI.
  • Mitigating the impact on sectors such as agriculture regarding TFW entry/access (developing reasonable exceptions).


On March 26, Strait Area Chamber representatives participated in a conference call with Minister Joly.  Questions we asked the Minister to clarify going forward include:

  • Will owners of businesses registered as a sole proprietorship and/or a partnership be eligible to receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)? Will business owners who are self-employed with no employees be eligible?
  • Many businesses utilize Point of Sale systems to track their inventory and accept payments via debit and credit. The monthly and per transaction merchant fees for credit card use in particular is high. In the interest of public health and safety, more merchants are encouraging their customers to avoid cash and use debit/credit instead – this increases the amount they pay to merchant services providers (i.e. banks) significantly. Is the federal government including relief on merchant fees in their negotiations with Canadian banks?


The key outcomes we are trying to drive are:

  • Keep cash in the hands of companies – don’t give it to government to give back to companies
  • Keep people working and off of social assistance of any kind for as long as possible
  • Ensure liquidity to support the recovery from this crisis and flattening the economic curve


We’ve also consulted with members of our Board and individual businesses across the region to compile a series of recommendations for the Federal Government regarding support for businesses, in particular tourism and health and wellness-related businesses.


Messages that we’ve passed along to our MP include:

  • Provide Employment Insurance (EI) supports to employees – especially hourly workers) to ensure they have adequate income through measures such as extending EI benefits/adjusting eligibility requirements, waiving waiting periods for EI.
  • Provide increases to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to enable families to purchase the things they need to stay healthy.
  • Invest in rural broadband infrastructure to enable more effective business continuity planning and online business growth.
  • Provide business financial supports to offset revenue losses and cashflow interruptions such as:
    – loan protection (through a partnership with financial institutions),
    – access to capital (working with ACOA and/or BDC to offer 0% interest loans with no payments for six months and repayable over an extended period),
    – funding for businesses to pay employees who would normally be at work so they can continue to collect insurable earnings and to ensure future access to talent (consider adjustments to federal/provicial programs such as START to enable businesses to cover earnings for the employees they would normally have on staff at this time of year).
  • Expediting approvals of shovel-ready tourism projects, such as:
    – the Pan-Cape Breton Food Hub,
    – Highland Village expansion,
    – the Cape Smokey development,
    – the Mabou Hill Campus,
    – refurbishment of the Baddeck wharf,
    – expansion of the St. Peter’s Marina,
    – trail development by the Victoria County Trails Federation,
    – a septic bed for the Canal Landing.


These types of tourism projects were assembled with input from Destination Cape Breton, and will be key stimulus projects and create more growth potential in the industry. These are just a few examples – please contact us if you have additional examples to add!

Help us help you! In order for governments to implement effective programs to minimize the personal and commercial impacts, they need to be fully aware of how businesses are working with their employees to safeguard their well-being and maintain operations where possible. We’re working with the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce to distribute a short survey to our members. This survey will help us tailor our messages to government in an effort to make sure they are aware of the scope of impacts on Atlantic Canadian businesses and the economy. Take the survey here!


For an overview on actions taken to date by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia, click here.


All businesses will feel the impact of COVID-19, and the results will be challenging to address.  Here’s what you can expect to encounter in your business – preparation will be key to survival and success:

  • Staff absences due to a number of reasons (personal illness, ill family members, looking after children if schools close, feeling of safety being at home etc.). In some cases employees may themselves elect to stay home; in other circumstances the government may authorize or require them to do so.
  • Disruption to essential services like information, telecommunications, financial services, energy supply, and logistics;
  • Disruption to supply of necessary materials or contractors;
  • A major increase or decrease in demand for products and services;
  • Cancellation or disruption of travel and cross-border movement of people and goods;
  • Cancellation of public meetings or gatherings like sports events, concerts or religious services;
  • Impact on the trade status of Canada, or of our trading partners; and
  • Increased public fear that causes citizens to avoid public places, including front line retail and tourist related attractions, restaurants and leisure businesses.


Being prepared will be key to survival and success.  There are resources below that can help – and feel free to reach out to us if you need anything!


Small businesses are going to take a major hit during these difficult weeks. We’ve already seen some business closures, adjustments, and impacts to the workforce.  There are small gestures you can make that will help!

  • Follow Social Distancing and Self-Isolation Directives
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water (here’s how)
  • Don’t succumb to panic-buying
  • Have patience with pharmacy wait times
  • Buy gift certificates from impacted businesses that you know you’ll have use for later
  • Order take-out and access delivery services from businesses that provide it
  • Plan your next trip as a Nova Scotia staycation to help our tourism industry recover


Other ideas?  Please share them with us!


It’s hard to know what steps to take to support the public health and safety efforts as outlined by our federal and provincial governments.  Here are some tips to help you make responsible decisions in your business:

  • Adjust staffing levels to limit contact with each other
  • Provide delivery and/or take-out services if your business model will support it.
  • Actively encourage employees to follow social distancing and self-isolation directives issued by the federal and provincial governments.
  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home – ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
  • Separate sick employees from the rest of your staff if they arrive at work appearing to be ill, and then send them home immediately.
  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained if possible. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs.

When it comes to determining if you should close completely, keep in mind the social distancing and self-isolation directives that have been issued by the authorities. If you’d like a sounding board, we’re here to help!




NSBI is providing more online digital content to support SME’s access programming at times that work for them – all the more important during the current climate. The virtual workshops and training courses provide companies with vital strategies and hands-on tips on how to deal with the current crisis. The first of many workshops include:



Canadians Should Be Vigilant for Scams Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic – As part of the Canadian Chamber’s Essential Business Services, they launched a cybersecurity program with CIRA, the non-profit that runs the .CA web domain. With more people working from home and many businesses switching to online operations, it is more important than ever that we remain vigilant for email phishing scams and other malicious cyber attacks. Learn more



The Cape Breton Partnership is hosting a series of webinar discussions to help businesses adapt. Sessions include a variety of topics including financing, e-commerce, legal, and navigating the many recently announced government programs and supports.


Topic: Social Media Marketing During COVID-19

Date / Time: Monday, April 6, 2020 at 2 p.m.

Subject matter experts:

  • Kevin MacMullin, VMP Group
  • Danielle Johnston, Anchored Ideas Ltd.
  • Helen Graham, Cape Breton University and NSCC Marconi Campus

Click Here to Register


Previous Webinars in the Series




The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced an investment of $100 million to improve access to food for Canadians facing social, economic, and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government of Canada will provide funding to national, regional, and local organizations/food banks across Canada that are able to reach people and communities experiencing food insecurity. Learn More 


No further updates for business were provided.



As of today, April 3, Nova Scotia has 207 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Fourteen new cases were identified Tuesday, April 2nd. While most cases in Nova Scotia are connected to travel or a known case, as reported previously, there is one confirmed case of community transmission and more cases are expected to present. A map and graphic presentation of the case data is now available. Learn More


No further updates for business were provided.


At this point, government is not declaring any businesses as essential services. All businesses (except those directed to close by Public Health) can remain open if they can follow the Public Health directives. Businesses must maintain a social distance of 2 metres (6 feet) between clients and customers. If that isn’t possible, clients and customers must not exceed five (5). In addition, businesses must maintain regular cleaning and disinfecting of workplaces and high-touch areas at least twice a day.


Some businesses who can maintain the social distancing requirements can be exempt from the five-person rule. These include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, construction and manufacturing, transportation including trucking, rail and transit, financial institutions, agri-food and fish plants. Canadian blood collection clinics are also exempt.




Canada Emergency Response Benefit
To support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the Government of Canada has proposed legislation to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB would cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB would apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). The Application Portal will be launched in early April. To learn more about the benefit, please read the News Release.

Work-Sharing Program
The Government of Canada is extending the maximum duration of the Work-Sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks. The Work-Sharing program is offered to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours because of developments beyond the control of their employers. Learn More


Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
The Government of Canada announced an up to 75 per cent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020. This will help businesses to keep and return workers to the payroll.  The subsidy will apply at a rate of 75 per cent of the first $58,700 normally earned by employees – representing a benefit of up to $847 per week. The program would be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020.

  • Eligible employers who suffer a drop in gross revenues of at least 30 per cent in March, April or May, when compared to the same month in 2019, would be able to access the subsidy.
  • Eligible employers would include employers of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy, with the exception of public sector entities.
  • For non-profit organizations and registered charities similarly affected by a loss of revenue, the government will continue to work with the sector to ensure the definition of revenue is appropriate to their circumstances. The government is also considering additional support for non-profits and charities, particularly those involved in the front line response to COVID-19. Further details will be announced in the near term.
  • An eligible employer’s entitlement to this wage subsidy will be based entirely on the salary or wages actually paid to employees. All employers would be expected to at least make best efforts to top up salaries to 100% of the maximum wages covered.


Eligible employers would be able to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy by applying through a Canada Revenue Agency online portal. More details regarding how to apply for the program will follow.


Those organizations that do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy may continue to qualify for the previously announced wage subsidy of 10 per cent of remuneration paid from March 18 to before June 20, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.


Nova Scotia Tender Notice

Are you a business that can supply products and service in support of Nova Scotia’s response to COVID-19? If so, we want to hear from you. A procurement portal has been developed and includes a list of products and services we’re looking for. Learn More


Records of Employment

If your employees are directly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and they are no longer working, you must issue a Record of Employment (ROE). You can order these forms through ROE Web.

  • When the employee is sick or quarantined, use code D (Illness or injury) as the reason for separation (block 16). Do not add comments.
  • When the employee is no longer working due to a shortage of work because the business has closed or decreased operations due to coronavirus (COVID-19), use code A (Shortage of work). Do not add comments.
  • When 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. Avoid adding comments unless absolutely necessary and get advice prior to issuing a code E or N in the current situation, as there could be legal or negative consequences for the employer if used inappropriately.


Tourism Accommodations Registry – The registry is now open for hosts to register their accommodations with the province of Nova Scotia. Click Here to access the Registry. However, in response to COVID-19 hosts will not have to pay a registration fee for 2020-21. In addition, the marketing platform registration page is also live here.


Workplace Safety
If COVID-19 is identified as a potential workplace hazard, parties have the duty to develop internal process to reduce risk to their staff. Employees should raise their concerns with their immediate supervisor / manager or Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Those who have specific questions about safe working conditions, and whether LAE will continue to inspect worksites and schedule technical safety exams, should consult the department’s Safety Branch.


Labour Standards – Pay and Job Security
The NS Labour Standards Code provides job protection for employees who are unable to perform work due to an emergency as defined under the Code, including the recent Order. For specific questions about pay, job security and layoffs contact LAE’s Labour Standards Division or 1-888-315-0110.


Changes to the Registry of Joint Stocks

All Registry of Joint Stock Company (RJSC) renewals due in March, April and May 2020 have been extended to June 30, 2020. Name reservations, sole proprietorship and partnership registrations and annual renewals can be completed online.


Counter service is not available at this time. The Business Registration Unit, located on 6 North in the Maritime Centre, 1505 Barrington Street, Halifax, will have a dropbox in the building lobby for deliveries of documents for processing. Drop boxes are in place at Access Nova Scotia Centre locations in Yarmouth, Kentville, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Amherst, Stellarton and Sydney to receive RJSC deliveries and will be delivered to the Maritime Centre for processing.


During this period, scanned copies of originally signed documents or digitally signed documents where the digital signature information is clearly readable when the document is printed, will be accepted. These scanned or digitally signed documents may be submitted via email to


Emails containing a credit card number is automatically blocked for security reasons. Please provide a phone number of a contact person from whom to obtain the relevant credit card information to complete payment. Contact the RJSC directly at 902-424-7770 or 1-800-225-8227 with any questions.


Managing Financial Health in Challenging Times

We know that financial stressors have a tremendous impact on mental health. Families may be experiencing anxieties around finances, from how to maintain your lifestyle during this pandemic to first-hand hardship through loss of an income. Whatever the source, financial emergencies can be stressful and cause considerable hardship for you and your family. If you or someone in your circle is experiencing hardships, consider consulting this resource from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada: COVID-19 – Managing financial health in challenging times.




NSBI Funding Search Tool updated for COVID-19 – Through NSBI’s website, the Funding Search Tool now enables businesses to keyword search any funding tools locally and across the country specific to the current COVID challenges to business – just use the keyword COVID-19.


Business Credit Availability Program

The Government of Canada established a Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) to provide $65 billion of additional support through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC). BDC and EDC are working with private sector lenders to coordinate on credit solutions for individual businesses, including in sectors such as oil and gas, air transportation, exportation and tourism.  This program includes:

  • Canada Emergency Business Account – The new Canada Emergency Business Account will provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced. To qualify, these organizations will need to demonstrate they paid between $50,000 to $1 million in total payroll in 2019.
  • Loan Guarantee for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises – EDC is working with financial institutions to issue new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to SMEs.
  • Co-Lending Program for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises – BDC is working with financial institutions to co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements. Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts of up to $6.25 million through the program.


These programs will roll out in the three weeks after March 27, and interested businesses should work with their current financial institutions.


Nova Scotia Business Inc Small Business Development Program

NSBI has updated the Small Business Development Program to serve Nova Scotia businesses better. The program helps businesses work with a private consultant to overcome a pain point or barrier, or a business expert to help identify and develop the leadership skills needed to scale your company.  Learn More


Increasing Credit Available to Farmers

The Government of Canada is supporting Farm Credit Canada by allowing an additional $5 billion in lending capacity to producers, agribusinesses, and food processors. This will offer increased flexibility to farmers who face cashflow issues and to processors who are impacted by lost sales, helping them remain financially strong during this difficult time. Learn More


Canada’s Banks Announce Flexible Solutions

In a press release on March 26, Canada’s six largest banks have announced a coordinated relief program to ease financial pressures due to the spread of COVID-19. Bank customers will be offered “flexible solutions” to get them through economic uncertainties due to COVID-19. COVID-19 relief measures will be offered to personal and small business banking customers and may include longer amortization periods, up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages and credit card payments. Learn more




Deferring the Payment of Business Income Taxes

The Government of Canada is allowing all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18 and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. Learn More

Deferral of Sales Tax Remittance and Customs Duty Payments
The Government of Canada will allow businesses, including self-employed individuals, to defer until June 30, 2020 payments of the Goods and Services Tax / Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST), as well as customs duties owing on their imports. The deferral will apply to GST/HST remittances for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods for monthly filers; the January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 reporting period for quarterly filers; and for annual filers, the amounts collected and owing for their previous fiscal year and instalments of GST/HST in respect of the filer’s current fiscal year.


Rent Deferral Agreement

The Provincial Government is encouraging landlords to defer rent for their tenants. If you’re deferring rent because your tenant’s business is closed due to the Health Protection Act order, you could be eligible for coverage (up to a maximum of $50,000 per landlord and $15,000 per tenant) if you can’t recover the deferred rent. To be eligible for the COVID-19 Small Business Rental Deferral Guarantee Program, landlords must register with the Department of Business by emailing The rent deferral agreement must be in place by 1 April and must be registered with the Department of Business by April 3. The Department of Business also provided a template to help set up the agreement. Learn More


Changes to Payments

The Provincial Government will defer payments until June 30 for all government loans, including those under the Farm Loan Board, Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board, Jobs Fund, Nova Scotia Business Fund, Municipal Finance Corp. and Housing Nova Scotia.

  • Government will defer payments until June 30 for small business renewal fees, including business registration renewal fees and workers compensation premiums (a list of fees will be posted online early next week).
  • Changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, administered through credit unions, include deferring principal and interest payments until June 30, enhancing the program to make it easier for businesses to access credit up to $500,000, and for those who might not qualify for a loan, government will guarantee the first $100,000.
  • Small businesses which do business with the government will be paid within five days instead of the standard 30 days.


Nova Scotia Power Providing Options & Payment Relief

In an email to customers, NS Power President & CEO Wayne O’Connor issued the following statement:  “We’ve been listening to you. We understand that many of you are concerned about the future, about employment insecurity and your ability to pay your bills. The last thing we want you to worry about is going without power during this tough time. We are here to help. For at least the next 90 days, we will not be disconnecting customers for nonpayment. We’re also committed to being flexible, relaxing payment timelines, waiving penalties and fees on unpaid bills, and providing options for residential and small business customers. If you’re struggling to pay your bill, our Customer Care team is ready to listen and work with you, so you can stay as current as possible with your payments. We also encourage those that can, to stay up to date with their payments. Not only will this avoid building up a balance, but it will help us support those who are most in need of financial assistance.”

He also announced a further donation of $500,000 to support customers through the HEAT Fund. The Home Energy Assistance Top-up (HEAT Fund) is available annually to individuals and families in Nova Scotia who live on a low income to help pay their energy bill. Customers can learn more about the program at




Texting Scams

The Prime Minister warned Canadians about a text scam going around on the new emergency response benefit. Trudeau said Canadians should be looking at reliable sources for information on the pandemic and relief efforts, such as government websites. Learn more 


Canadian Chamber and CIRA Cybersecurity Program

Canadians Should Be Vigilant for Scams Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic – As part of the Canadian Chamber’s Essential Business Services, they launched a cybersecurity program with CIRA, the non-profit that runs the .CA web domain. With more people working from home and many businesses switching to online operations, it is more important than ever that we remain vigilant for email phishing scams and other malicious cyber attacks. Learn more

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