Provincial Economic Relief Programs and Updates

Next Steps Toward Reopening the Province

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, announced on May 27, the next steps toward reopening the province. Effective June 5, most businesses required to close under the public health order can reopen. Businesses must follow protocols in the plan that is tailored to their sector. This includes following public health protocols to ensure physical distancing, increased cleaning and other protective measures for staff and customers. The following can open if they are ready and choose to do so:

  • restaurants for dine-in, as well as takeout and delivery
  • bars, wineries, distilleries and taprooms
  • restaurants and licensed liquor establishments can operate at 100% capacity, while maintaining appropriate distancing between tables, and serve patrons until midnight. Patrons must leave by 1:00 am. These businesses must continue to follow their sector plans.
  • lounges are not permitted to reopen at this time 
  • personal services, such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments
  • fitness facilities, such as gyms, yoga studios, and climbing facilities 
  • veterinarians
  • childcare sector

Other health providers can also reopen on June 5, provided they follow protocols in their colleges’ and associations’ plans, as approved by public health. These include:

  • dentistry and other self-regulated health professions such as optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy
  • unregulated health professions such as massage therapy, podiatry and naturopathy

Existing public health directives around physical distancing remain in place. People must keep two metres apart.

Non-Medical Masks

The province of Nova Scotia announced that wearing a non-medical mask is required in most indoor public places as of July 31, 2020. Children under 2 are exempt, as well as children 2 to 4 when their caregiver can't get them to wear a mask. People with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask are also exempt. Schools, day cares and day camps continue to follow their sector-specific plans.

Public places include:

  • A business or government official can ask you to remove your mask for identification purposes (you can remove it momentarily for this reason).
  • retail businesses and shopping centres
  • personal services businesses like hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments (except during services that require removing a mask)
  • restaurants and liquor licensed (drinking) establishments like bars, wineries, distillery tasting rooms and craft taprooms (except while you're eating or drinking)
  • places of worship and faith gatherings
  • places for cultural or entertainment activities and services (like movie theatres, theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals and concerts)
  • places for sports and recreational activities, including fitness establishments, like pools, gyms, yoga studios, climbing facilities and indoor tennis facilities (except during an activity where a mask can't be worn) 
  • places for events (like conventions, conferences and receptions)  
  • municipal and provincial government locations that offer services to the public
  • common areas of tourist accommodations (like lobbies, elevators and hallways)
  • common areas of office buildings (like reception areas, elevators and hallways), excluding private offices and apartment buildings
  • common areas and public spaces on university and college campuses (like the library and student union building, but not classrooms, labs, offices or residences)
  • train stations, bus stations, ferry terminals and airports

Gathering Limits

Gathering Limits for Participants in Performing Arts, Sports to Increase

Government is increasing the allowable numbers for participants in performing arts, sport and organized physical activity.

Effective October 1, the number of people who can participate in one of these activities without physical distancing will increase from 10 to 50. For most sports, this will allow full team practises and competition to resume, while for the performing arts, this will allow for larger rehearsals and performances. This change also applies to recreational league sports, like adult hockey, and drop-in activities, like open swims and skates. Unorganized or casual games, like pickup basketball or soccer in the park, must adhere to existing gathering rules of small groups of 10 without physical distancing within a maximum of 50 with physical distancing.

The gathering limit of 50 without physical distancing includes:

  • players/participants, officials, coaches, instructors or anyone else who is required to be on or near the field of play
  • performers, directors, cast, crew or anyone else required to be within the performance space

The limit of 50 applies to practises, competitions, games, rehearsals and artistic performances. While mask use is not required while doing physical activity, wearing masks and maintaining distance as much as possible continues to be encouraged for these activities. Learn more here.

Existing gathering requirements for audiences/spectators at sport/recreation facilities and performances venues must continue to be followed.

All organizations are asked to have a rollback plan in place, should gathering limits need to be reduced again.

Quick Facts:

  • the gathering limits for day camps and after school programs remains at 15
  • the gathering limit for events and performances is 250 outside with physical distancing and 50 per cent of a facility’s capacity, up to 200 inside, with physical distancing and mandatory masks for spectators
  • testing numbers are updated daily at
  • a state of emergency was declared under the Emergency Management Act on March 22 and extended to Oct. 4

Gathering Limits

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, announced on June 18, changes to gathering limits given Nova Scotia’s low rates of COVID-19. 

People can now gather in groups of up to 10 without physical distancing. People in a group are not required to be exclusive but they are strongly encouraged to maintain a consistent group. This is especially important for Nova Scotians who are more at risk of complications from COVID-19. This change replaces the concept of family household bubbles.

Gathering limits increase for social events, arts and culture events, faith-based gatherings, and weddings and funerals that are run by a recognized business or organization. These outdoor events can have 250 people, and indoor events can have 50% of capacity to a maximum of 200 people. When these types of events are NOT run by a recognized business or organization, they are limited to 50. Sport and physical activity also continue to be limited to 50.

Businesses that are too small to ensure physical distancing can have no more than 10 people on their premises at a time. Playgrounds can start reopening. Municipalities and other owners of playgrounds will need time to prepare them for reopening so Nova Scotians should not expect them to be open immediately. All municipal and provincial parks have been open since May 1, 2020. Learn more here.

Atlantic Canada Travel Bubble

The Council of Atlantic Premiers announced travel restrictions in Atlantic Canada will be eased as COVID-19 case numbers remain low in each province. Interprovincial travel within Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, without the requirement to self-isolate for Atlantic Canadian residents, will be permitted starting July 3.

All public health directives present in each province must be adhered to, including not traveling if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 and practicing physical distancing and good and hygiene. Each province will choose their own processes to track and monitor travelers.

Visitors from other Canadian provinces and territories will still need to adhere to the local entry requirements in place in each of the four jurisdictions. Other Canadian visitors to the Maritime provinces who have self-isolated for 14 days may travel within the Maritime region.

Small Business Reopening and Support Grant 

Eligible Businesses, non-profits, charities, social enterprises will be able to access the new Small Business Reopening and Support Grant, a $25 million fund that will provide $5,000 grants to help them open safely and $1,500 business continuity voucher for advice and support to become more resilient in the coming months. If you previously applied for the Small Business Impact Grant, you do not need to reapply. This program will be for businesses ordered closed and will also be for small retailers and others who were not ordered to close. More information is available online and applications will begin June 1.

Nova Scotians can find accurate, up-to-date information, hand-washing posters, and fact sheets here. Businesses and other organizations can find information to help them safely reopen here.


The Premier of Nova Scotia announced the new measures below (view the official release) on April 2, 2020:

  • A $20 million Worker Emergency Bridge Fund to help the self-employed and those laid-off workers who do not qualify for Employment Insurance. Government will provide a one-time, $1,000 payment, to bridge the gap between layoffs and closures and the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit
  • $20 million to fund a new program – the Small Business Impact Grant. Eligible small businesses and social enterprises will receive a grant of 15 per cent of their gross revenues – either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000. This flexible, one-time, upfront grant can be used for any purpose necessary 

The announcements, totalling $40 million, will come out of a new $50 million fund that will be administered by Dalhousie University in Halifax. Eligibility for the programs is not affected by a person or business being enrolled in another provincial program or the federal initiatives.


Digital Adoption Program

The Digital Adoption Program supports Nova Scotia businesses to rapidly adopt digital tools and innovations to manage through impacts related to COVID-19. The Program provides financial incentives to Nova Scotia small businesses to:

  • Build or improve their online presence to retain and create new sales opportunities and improve firm resilience and flexibility to keep pace with the changing nature of business; and
  • Adopt digital tools and implement process improvements related to e-commerce solutions and to support remote working.

The Program contributes up to 50% of eligible costs to a maximum of $10,000 CAD. Minimum project cost is $2,000 CAD. 


Applicants must meet the following criteria: 

  • be a Nova Scotia registered business in good standing (current registration on the Registry of Joint Stock Companies; federally registered businesses with a head office registered in Nova Scotia may be eligible) with less than 100 FTEs in Nova Scotia 
  • have a permanent establishment in Nova Scotia 
  • the majority of its workforce currently residing in Nova Scotia 
  • monthly revenue for April 2020 must be 30% lower than monthly revenue for April 2019  
  • have a product/service with the potential to be sold outside of Nova Scotia 

Important Dates 

Applications for the Digital Adoption Program are accepted between June 15, 2020 and August 15, 2020. Applications must be received no later than 5:00pm (Atlantic Standard Time) on August 15, 2020. All projects must be completed, and claims submitted before October 31, 2020

Regional Relief Recovery Fund

The federal government announced $110 million through the Regional Relief Recovery Fund to support Atlantic Canadian businesses and communities affected by COVID-19. To be eligible, businesses and organizations must not have accessed funds or COVID-19 relief measures and continue to experience hardship. In the urban core, funding will be managed through CEED. The application is available here.

Funding includes $66.7 million through ACOA to support small and medium-sized businesses that provide products and services to other businesses and organizations and $43.3 million through the Atlantic Association of CBDCs to support main street businesses, such as restaurants and retailers in small rural and remote communities. Eligible businesses are in sectors that are critical to the resilience and survival of Atlantic Canada’s economy, such as advanced manufacturing, ocean industries, clean growth technology and tourism.

Small Business Development Program

Applications for NSBI's Business Development Program (formerly SBDP) are now being accepted. The program matches businesses and 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. Visit to learn more.

Virtual Training

NSBI is providing virtual workshops and training courses to support SME's access programming at times that work for them – all the more important during the current climate. The featured sessions, including Planning for Now: Improvise, Adapt & Overcome and How to Mitigate Financial Risk During Crisis, provide companies with vital strategies and hands-on tips on how to deal with the current crisis. Information can be found here.

Funding Search Tool updated for COVID-19

Through Nova Scotia Business Inc.'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 Support from Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre

In response to COVID-19, Saint Mary's University Entrepreneurship Centre is offering free virtual one-on-one strategy sessions to Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs. The sessions aim to provide support, insight, and additional resources to help entrepreneurs overcome current challenges. More information can be found here.

Nova Scotia Tender Notices

Are you a business that can supply products and service in support of Nova Scotia's response to COVID-19? If so, the Nova Scotia Department of Business wants to hear from you. They are also interested in hearing from innovative businesses or organizations that have a solution for:

  • virtual mental health services for vulnerable people or those living in remote communities 
  • supply chain resiliency monitoring
  • financial planning and advising for small businesses that can be delivered online at low-cost, including advice on how to apply for relief programs
  • other ideas or products that could help Nova Scotians

procurement portal has been developed and includes a list of products and services we're looking for.

Employer Assessment Tool Update

An assessment online tool has been posted to the provincial Coronavirus website to quickly help employers determine if they may remain open, in compliance with current workplace safety requirements. You can find the assessment tool here.

COVID-19 Rent Deferral Guarantee Program Application Deadline Extension

The deadline for landlords already registered for the provincial COVID-19 Rent Deferral Guarantee Program to submit their application has been extended. In order to be included in the provincial guarantee, landlords must send their full applications to the Department of Business by June 26 to

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program

The application portal for the federal/provincial rent deferral program will open on Monday, May 25. Landlords who register for the program can receive a forgivable loan to cover half of the rent in April, May, and June if they lower the rent by 75 per cent over that period. Application documents are now available on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s here.

Provincial Supports for Small Businesses

The provincial government has announced several initiatives to address cash flow and access to credit for small- and medium-sized businesses in Nova Scotia:

  • Payment deferrals until June 30 on 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. 
  • Fees, including business renewal fees and workers compensation premiums, will be deferred. A list of applicable fees will be posted.
  • Changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, administered through provincial Credit Unions include deferring principal and interest payments until June 30.
  • Other changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program include enhancing the program to make it easier for businesses to access credit up to $500,000. For new loans, the first $100,000 will be fully guaranteed by the province.

The Workers’ Compensation Board

The Workers’ Compensation Board has a number of materials available online to help employers communicate work safety during the COVID pandemic. 

Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety

As we continue to think about reopening our economy and what that may look like for each individual sector, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety have developed pandemic tip sheets to help employers protect their workers and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The tip sheets are now available.