Targeted relief for businesses and people impacted by COVID

By MPP Toby Barrett 

In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, details of steps to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures were announced recently. These changes take effect starting on January 31, 2022. This announcement was made as key public health and health care indicators are starting to show signs of improvement as a result of additional public health measures enacted on January 5.

Since the first day of the pandemic, the government has provided unprecedented levels of support to protect people, jobs and our economy. The Ontario government is continuing to provide targeted relief for businesses and people impacted by the current public health measures. 

Those eligible for the Ontario Business Cost Rebate Program include: 

  • Restaurants and bars  
  • Facilities for indoor sports and recreational fitness activities (including fitness centres and gyms) 
  • Racing venues, casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments 
  • Meeting or event spaces 
  • Tour and guide services 
  • Performing arts venues and cinemas 
  • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions 
  • Conference centres and convention centres 
  • Driving instruction for individuals 
  • Before- and after- school programs 

The Ontario government is also providing electricity rate relief to support small businesses, as well as workers and families spending more time at home. For 21 days, as of January 18, 2022, electricity prices will be set 24 hours a day at the current off-peak rate of 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is less than half the cost of the current on-peak rate. The off-peak rate will apply automatically to residential, small businesses and farms. 

Online applications for the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program opened January 18. Under the rebate program, eligible businesses that had to close for indoor activities, such as restaurants and gyms can receive a rebate payment equivalent to 100 per cent of their costs. Those required to reduce capacity to 50 per cent, such as smaller retail stores, can receive a rebate payment equivalent to 50 per cent of their costs. 

Businesses will be required to submit proof of costs associated with commercial property tax and energy bills as part of the application process. All eligible businesses must submit an application to be considered, including those that received previous COVID-19 support payments. To learn more, including to find a full list of eligible businesses, visit the online application portal Those with questions about the program can call ServiceOntario at 1-855-216-3090 or the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.

As part of its plan to provide targeted relief to small businesses, the government is also improving cash flows for businesses. Ontario is providing up to $7.5 billion through a six-month interest- and penalty-free period that started January 1, 2022 for businesses to make payments for most provincially administered taxes. This supports businesses now and provides the flexibility they will need for long-term planning. 

Building on Ontario’s efforts to improve cash flows for businesses, the province continues to call on the federal government to match provincial tax deferral efforts. This would allow small businesses impacted by public health measures to also defer their HST remittances for a period of six months. 

Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk