WinDoor Opens on Topic of Government Assistance Amid Worsening PandemicNovember 17th, 2020 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor
Fenestration Canada’s Marketplace by WinDoor opened this week and with COVID-19 worsening across the U.S. and Canada, the event wasted no time in getting to topics about battening down financial hatches. In a brief opening session, executive director Stephane Labelle welcomed attendees to the online event—urging them to participate in its virtual trade show and educational sessions, starting with an overview for government support programs.
As of November 3, about 66% of businesses in Canada are fully open, said Corinne Pohlmann, senior vice-president of National Affairs and Partnerships for Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). At the same time, only 28% are back to normal sales, she added. Ten months into the pandemic, “Things are changing rapidly,” Pohlmann said, including measures taken by the Canadian government to help companies that are hanging on financially.
Before launching into her update, Pohlmann began with some practical advice by urging attendees to keep a log or journal about their business-related decisions.
“This is going to be super important as you go through this, because obviously you’re making decisions that maybe have been different from what you would normally make,” she said. “All of this may become helpful to you even a year from now.” The same information could also prove critical should a government agency request information, she said.
In the week ahead of the show, legislation was advanced to Canada’s Senate for review, proposing the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) program, Pohlmann said, which, if enacted, will provide relief directly to tenants. The new program represents a change of thinking, she explained, after prior assistance was provided to landlords, but proved to be less effective than intended. With CERS, any business experiencing revenue loss will be able to claim a subsidy of up to 65% toward rent. An additional 25% of Lockdown Support would be available for companies that are required to shut down, further boosting coverage to up to 90% for a given month. CERS is expected to cover commercial rent, property taxes, property insurance and interest on commercial mortgages, but, as more companies take their operations to the home front via remote work, it’s important to note that it will not cover residential properties. If enacted, the program will only cover from October 2020 forward, Pohlmann said, but some form of rent subsidy is expected to be available through June 2021.
Other programs undergoing changes in recent months include a Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). Introduced in March 2020, Pohlmann said the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program began as a 75% flat wage subsidy for those with revenue losses of 30% or more. Starting in July, however, the program was adjusted, now setting the amount of subsidy by the amount of lost revenue.
While program participants could choose between the old or new forms for calculating the months of July and August, beginning in September, all subsidies are now based on actual revenue losses, she said.
Most businesses are eligible for CEWS, Pohlmann explained, so long as they have a CRA Business Number before March 15 or have third-party payroll providers that submit payrolls to CRA for them. Companies must also have employees on payroll who receive T4 slips and meet the loss requirements for each claim period.
Among all the programs available, the CEBA is “probably the most used, as almost 800,000 loans have been approved,” Pohlmann said. As an emergency fund, the program includes $40,000 interest-free loans—25% of which is forgivable if repaid by the end of 2022. The program has been updated and expanded a total of four times, she explained, first broadening the acceptable levels of payroll per year, then adding the requirement for non-deferrable expenses of $40,000 or more per year. A fourth revision added the requirement for business bank accounts (rather than personal), while the latest CEBA Plus revision provides an additional $20,000—half of which will be forgivable. CEBA Plus is not yet available, but Pohlmann said she is hopeful that the full, expanded program will be enacted by the end of November. The deadline for CEBA is December 31, 2020, and more details can be found at www.cfib.ca/covid19.
As for the event’s trade show, “We got a lot of exhibitors—probably more than we anticipated,” said Terry Adamson of Westeck Windows and Doors, president of Fenestration Canada’s board. “Unique times call for unique measures and I think this show will turn out to be a great online presentation,” he added.
In order to boost involvement, the online event includes drawings, explained Lindsay McGhie, marketing manager at Centennial Windows and Doors. “As an attendee, you can win a prize just for showing up,” she said, adding that the more booths an attendee visits, the greater their odds are for winning. A drawing will take place Monday, November 23.
The event kicks off with five days of programming this week, but continues throughout the year—including the addition of new exhibitors, explained board member Laura Weil of Euro Vinyl Windows and Doors Inc. “We’re always trying to get everything pushed into just a few days, because of travel requirements, but now we can take our time,” Weil said. “Please, go and visit the booths, be inspired and keep our industry thriving and connected. We want to be as engaged and progressive as I know we can be.”
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