Sarah Bruce
Public Relations / Member Engagement
Phone: 604-432-7987

COVID-19 News

In these uncertain times, the ARA is working on your behalf to share news from the federal and provincial government most relevant to industry. Check back often for industry and government news updates.

November 23, 2020

Rent relief for businesses impacted by COVID-19: Businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 can apply for the federal government’s Emergency Rent Subsidy starting from today. The new program will cover up to 65% of rent or commercial mortgage interest based on revenue declines, with an additional 25% offered for those businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Click here for more information.

September 24, 2020

Eligible employers who had any drop in revenue can now qualify for the wage subsidy, starting with the claim periods that began July 5. Learn more here.

September 23, 2020

The Speech from the Throne opens every new session of Parliament. The Speech introduces the government’s direction and goals and outlines how it will work to achieve them.

On September 23, 2020, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, delivered the Speech from the Throne to open the second session of the 43rd Parliament and outline the government’s agenda. Read more here.

September 21, 2020

Announced today, British Columbians will go to the polls for a provinicial election on October 24 to determine who should lead us in these troubled times. The ARA will keep members updated on information for industry as it arises.

“The pandemic will be with us for a year or more,” John Horgan said, “That’s why I believe we need to have an election now. We can either delay that decision and create uncertainty and instability over the next 12 months, more speculation, more talk about what might be, or, we can do what I believe is always this right thing: Ask British Columbians what they think.”

September 17, 2020

Premier John Horgan and Carole James, Minister of Finance, have released Stronger BC for Everyone: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan.

The plan outlines the latest steps the Government of British Columbia is taking to help people, businesses and communities recover and come out of COVID-19 stronger and better prepared. B.C.’s total provincial response to the COVID-19 pandemic exceeds $8.25 billion.

August 20, 2020

The Canadian government announced the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended by four weeks with an additional $37 billion granted to help employees transition from CERB to EI.

Summary of temporary measures to help Canadians access EI benefits more easily:

  • 120 hours of work required to qualify
  • Minimum benefit rate of $400 per week
  • At least 26 weeks of regular benefits

July 31, 2020

The federal government plans to transition recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to the Employment Insurance (EI) program as the coronavirus aid program wraps up this fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday. Learn more.

July 27, 2020

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, have issued the following joint statement regarding updates on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response in British Columbia: Joint statement on B.C.’s COVID-19 response, latest updates

July 21, 2020

The B.C. government has formally extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the Province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

“I want to commend everyone in British Columbia for following public health advice to reduce transmission and keep everyone safe from COVID-19,” said Premier John Horgan. “However, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and we’re not out of the woods yet. As a government, we are working to ensure the supports people need during this unprecedented time continue to be available, which is why we’re extending provincial state of emergency today.”

The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, to allow government to continue to take the necessary actions to keep British Columbians safe.

To learn more go to State of Emergency Extended to Continue B.C.’s COVID-19 Response on the B.C. Government’s website.

July 17, 2020

The Government of Canada has taken immediate, significant and decisive action to protect the health of Canadians, support Canadian workers and businesses, and stabilize the Canadian economy during the global COVID-19 outbreak.

As part of its COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the government introduced the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to prevent further job losses, encourage employers to quickly rehire workers previously laid off as a result of COVID-19, and help better position the Canadian economy as we bridge to the other side.

To learn more go to Adapting the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to Protect Jobs and Promote Growth on the Government of Canada’s website.

July 8, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is the challenge of our generation. The Government of Canada has responded with rapid and broad-based emergency support measures to protect the health and economic well-being of Canadians.

Today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau presented an economic and fiscal snapshot. The federal government has used its strong fiscal position to stabilize the economy and support Canadians by putting in place the largest economic aid package in generations.

While the toll of COVID-19 on the broader economy in 2020 is expected to be the largest and most sudden economic contraction since the Great Depression, measures to flatten the pandemic curve in Canada are paying off, and efforts are underway across the country to safely and gradually reopen the Canadian economy. The actions and investments of governments across Canada to date have helped us get this far. But the road towards recovery remains long and uncertain. Today, and in the months to come, our economic health will largely depend on our public health.

To learn more go to Historic COVID-19 Plan Provides Canadians With the Support They Need to Get Through the Economic Crisis on the Government of Canada’s website.

June 16, 2020

The federal government announced today it will be extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) by 8 weeks for those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19 but only if they look for work and take a job when it is reasonable to do so.

June 5, 2020

In a press release issued from the B.C. Government on Friday, Finance Minister Carole James said that 353,200 jobs have been lost since the start of the pandemic. Despite major job losses, James feels optimistic as the province continues to reopen.

The province is currently in phase two of is COVID-19 restart plan and has yet to see any major setbacks in regards to new cases. In an effort to help small businesses in the province, Minister James also announced this week that evictions would be temporarily banned in the hopes that more landlords apply for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program.

May 14, 2020

ICBC today issued a news release outlining details requested by industry, results were compiled in a report that looked at a seven-week period from mid-March to the beginning of May. Some highlights:

  • The impact of the pandemic has been wide-ranging and unprecedented.
  • Over the past two months, fewer people have been driving and that’s led to a reduction in the number of claims and other impacts that aren’t as visible.
  • ICBC has seen significant reductions in premium revenue as our customers made changes to their insurance policies, held off on getting new policies or cancelled their policies altogether.
  • ICBC, like other insurers, uses an investment portfolio to help offset claims costs and reduce premiums. ICBC’s investment portfolio has taken a significant hit and it’s not clear how long it will take to rebound.
  • ICBC opened 46 percent fewer accident claims compared to the same time last year, with an average weekly reduction of 7,200 claims. However, claim numbers are on the rise again as more vehicles return to B.C. roads.

    It’s anticipated the trend (increases to volume) will continue as restrictions are eased and people begin to drive more regularly. It’s also expected that claims levels may be lower than previous years going forward, but by how much is not clear at this time.

May 13, 2020

As businesses return to work, please use the following WorkSafeBC resources when developing your COVID-19 plan:

May 8, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy beyond June to “help kick-start” the economy reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The prime minister said more details will be announced next week.

May 6, 2020

B.C. Premier John Horgan will outline plans to reopen the provincial economy today in what his government hopes is the end of the beginning of the pandemic.

His minority government has held power, against the odds, since the summer of 2017, with an agenda that focused on climate action, Indigenous reconciliation, and social justice. On Wednesday he will have to pivot to an agenda designed to rebuild an economy being hammered by a domestic lockdown and a looming global recession.

BC’s Restart Plan lays out a series of steps that we will take together to protect people and ensure that our province can come back from COVID-19 stronger than before.

May 4, 2020

The B.C government has now announced that they have extended the temporary layoff period in B.C. to 16 weeks due to COVID-19. Previously under the Employment Standards Act, a temporary layoff longer than 13 weeks in any 20-week period was considered a permanent layoff. With a permanent layoff, employers are required to provide employees with written working notice of termination and/or pay severance to qualifying employees, based on their length of service. Now, temporary layoffs relating to the COVID-19 pandemic can be extended to 16 weeks, if the employee agrees. The COVID-19 emergency temporary layoff provisions are not intended to be permanent and will be repealed when no longer needed.

April 28, 2020

Update from ICBC:

  • Starting April 27th, customers that are new to BC, require a commercial license (Class 1-4) or have a learner’s license, which expired on or after March 1, 2020, will be able to book an appointment for a knowledge test. These knowledge tests are by appointment only and will commence at select locations on May 4.
  • If a customer’s Class 5 to 8 learner’s license expired on or after March 17, 2020, then their first knowledge test fee of $15 will be waived. Customers who are unsuccessful will need to book another appointment in order to reattempt their test, fees will apply. There is a one week waiting period for each reattempt.
  • Starting April 27th, customers will be able to book an appointment for their Motorcycle Skills Testing (MST), which will commence on May 11. The MSTs will be available for those who hold an existing learner license or who can re-qualify if their learner expired on after March 1st. MST can be booked online or by phone, there is no fee for the MST and if a customer fails their MST, there is a 7 day wait period for reattempt.
  • Due to high demand and to ensure physical distancing, customers will only be able to take the test during their allocated appointment time. We’re encouraging customers to arrive on time and come prepared. Also due to physical distancing requirements, road tests are not available at this time.
  • In partnership with the provincial government, ICBC issued a news release that outlines details of these temporary changes. They’ve also updated their website with the most current information, and encourage you to check this site regularly.

April 27, 2020

Applications for the federal 75 percent Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy is now open.

To Apply Online: Ensure you have registered for the Canada Revenue Agency’s MY BUSINESS ACCOUNT and that your DIRECT DEPOSIT information is up to date.

For employers unable to register for My Business Account, a separate online application is also available, but an online web access code is needed to use this. The first payments could arrive as early as May 7th. The deadline to apply for the CEWS is September 30, 2020.

The Government has introduced measures to prevent employers from abusing the CEWS program. It is expected that the CRA will significantly scrutinize applications made under this program.

For more details, please visit the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) webpage. Details on this program, as well as other federal business support programs, such as $40,000 interest-free loans, tax payment deferral, rent relief, and HST remittance deferrals can be found at Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan webpage.

April 24, 2020

The ARA is advocating for an extension to the 13-week temporary layoff, lest layoffs become termination and already financially-strained employers are put in a position to pay out severance and vacation pay.

The federal government has reached a deal with the provinces concerning commercial rent subsidies for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The federal government will cover 50 percent of the rent for April, May, and June and the landlord will cover the remaining 25 percent. Further details about the program to follow. Details of commercial rent subsidies for large businesses to be detailed later.

For more information: PM unveils rent relief for businesses forced to shut down

April 21, 2020

Beginning April 27, businesses can begin applying for the 75 percent federal wage subsidy. Information on how to apply along with a calculator that will assist with the application:

April 17, 2020

The BC government has announced new COVID-19 support for businesses and local governments. The province is providing enhanced relief for businesses by reducing most commercial property tax bills by an average of 25 percent, along with new measures to support local governments facing temporary revenue shortfalls as a result of COVID-19. The province will be further reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties to achieve an average 25 percent reduction in the total property tax bill for most businesses, providing up to $700 million in relief. This enhances the 50 percent reduction to the provincial school property tax rate that was originally announced for classes 4, 5, and 6 as part of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan. As well, the government will be postponing the date that late payment penalties apply for commercial properties in classes 4,5,6,7 and 8 to Oct. 1, 2020, to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their reduced property tax, without penalty. A backgrounder is included at the bottom outlining the changes to B.C.’s property tax framework in response to COVID-19.

ICBC Announces:

  • Fleet customers now have the option to suspend their insurance instead of cancelling their plates. We are waving the new plate fee when re-plating or adding a new vehicle to their fleet.
  • For non-fleet customers, we are waiving cancellation and plating fees associated with cancelling and re-plating at a later date.
  • ICBC customers – including volunteers – will now be able to use their vehicles for the delivery of essential goods, such as food or medical products and services, without changing their insurance or paying a higher premium.
  • Customers whose Learner Driver’s Licences (class 5-8) expire during the pandemic will not have to pay the fee for the first knowledge test once testing resumes.

April 16, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a new rent assistance program to assist businesses with covering commercial rents for April, May, and June. The assistance is being rolled out in collaboration with the provinces and territories as it’s within their jurisdictions. More information will be announced in the next few days.

The federal government is also making plans to loosen the criteria needed for small- and medium-sized companies to qualify for a loan. The program, targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses, offers government-guaranteed loans of up to $40,000 to cover the costs of keeping their enterprise afloat during the COVID-19 crisis. The current eligibility requires applicants to prove that they paid between $50,000 and $1 million in payroll in 2019, leaving out some businesses on either side of these figures. Now, companies who paid between $20,000 and $1,500,000 in total payroll in 2019 will be eligible to receive a loan.

April 14, 2020

ICBC will pay 0.5 hours $37.50 for pre- and post- sanitization of a vehicle in for service, as well as for customer courtesy vehicles.

Predicting the post-pandemic rebound – A live look at Canada’s economy to prepare businesses for recovery. A new dashboard has been released aiming to predict the economical post-pandemic rebound.

April 8, 2020

For members worried that they will not qualify for the 75 percent wage subsidies, the federal government has responded by providing greater flexibility for businesses:

On the initial proposal that was unveiled last month, business groups were worried that eligibility would be limited to companies that could demonstrate a 30-per-cent reduction in revenue when comparing one month this year, such as March, April or May, to the same month in 2019.

The new bill gives companies the option of using January and February as reference periods instead, under certain conditions. It also includes a section that reduces the threshold for March to 15 per cent. The proposed threshold would remain at 30 per cent for April and May.

April 2, 2020

For employers concerned that they may not qualify for the 75 percent wage subsidy program because they do not meet the 30 percent decline in revenue threshold, they may still qualify for the 10 percent wage subsidy program previously announced by the federal government. This is good information for anyone concerned about whether they will receive any assistance from government during this crisis.

Eligible employers are: 

  • Canadian-Controlled Private Corporation (incorporated) eligible to the small business deduction or non-profit organizations, registered charities; and
  • Have an existing business number and payroll program account with CRA on March 18; and
  • Pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remunerations to an employee.

Eligible period:

For salaries paid from March 18 to June 20, 2020.

How do I calculate the subsidy? 

It is a 10 percent subsidy, so if you have 2 employees that you pay $1,500 each, every two weeks, the subsidy will be $150 x 2 = $300

What is the maximum subsidy I can receive? 

Over the 90 days period, the limit is $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer

How do I receive the subsidy? 

You can reduce your remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy. You will be able to keep a portion of your employees’ income tax instead of giving it all to CRA

For example, if you have two employees for a total bimonthly labour cost of $3,000 and you deduct $700 from their pay for the federal and provincial income tax, you will be able to remit to CRA only $400 and keep the remaining $300 for you as you have a subsidy of $300 (as calculated above).

The calculation is the following: Planed income Tax remittance – 10% subsidy = New Income Tax remittance

You cannot however reduce your remittance of Canada Pension Plan contributions (CPP) or Employment Insurance (EI) premiums.

When can I receive the subsidy?  

In the first remittance period that includes remuneration paid between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020

For more details, see the Frequently Asked Questions from CRA.

April 1, 2020

The B.C. government has announced relief on BC Hydro bills for individuals, businesses, and industry. Residential customers who have lost their jobs, or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19, will receive a bill credit of three times their average monthly bill. The credit does not need to be repaid. Businesses with accounts in BC Hydro’s Small General Service rate category that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months – for electricity used between April and June 2020, with no repayment required. Eligible industrial customers with accounts in BC Hydro’s Transmission Service rate category (rate schedules 1823 and 1828) will have the opportunity to defer 50 percent of their electricity bill payments for the March 2020 to May 2020 billing period.

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, due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus. 25 percent (up to $10,000) loan forgiveness: Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of 25 percent (up to $10,000). To qualify, small businesses and not-for-profits will need to demonstrate they paid between $50,000 to $1 million in total payroll in 2019. Small businesses and not-for-profits should contact their financial institution to apply for these loans.

Starting April 6, anyone who has lost their job but has not applied for EI only needs to apply for the CERB. Canadians who have already applied for EI do not need to submit another request for the CERB. Individuals who receive the wage subsidy from their employer cannot get the new emergency benefit. Approved applicants will have to confirm that they are still unemployed each month. Canadians can register for the CERB online at and should receive payment in three to five days through direct deposit or 10 days by mailed cheque.

March 30, 2020

Wage Subsidy details:

To prepare to rehire and retain essential talent, the Canadian government launched its biggest economic recovery program in Canadian history. The federal government has just released further details if the 75 percent wage subsidy program. Program details are as follows:

  • If your revenue has decreased by 30 percent from this time last year you will qualify. To determine the decline in revenue Canada Revenue will compare your earnings from 2019 with 2020. They will compare your revenues for March, April, and May with your current revenues to determine eligibility.
  • Applications can be made online through a portal to be made available soon on the CRA website. Similar to the CERB employers will be required to re-apply every month.
  • Money will be distributed to businesses within six weeks after applying.
  • Number of employees not a factor in decision.
  • Applies to private, non-profit, or charities.
  • All companies qualify no matter the number of employees they hire.
  • Wage subsidy will cover 75 percent of your salary for the first $58.000 or $847.00 per week. Employers are expected to cover the remaining 25 percent of an employee’s wages as best they can.
  • Backdated to March 16th.
  • Any fraudulent activity will be dealt with severe consequences.

March 27, 2020

March 26, 2020