Provincial Economic Relief Programs and Updates

Nova Scotia Starting Fourth Phase of Reopening

Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, announced on July 12, that Nova Scotia will start the fourth phase of its reopening plan on Wednesday, July 14.

Each phase of the reopening plan is based on COVID-19 activity, hospitalizations, vaccination rates and continued testing. Heading into Phase 4, 75 per cent of all Nova Scotians have had one or more doses of vaccine, several thousand tests are being done daily, new case numbers are typically in single digits each day and hospitalizations are decreasing.

There are no changes to Nova Scotia’s border policy as Phase 4 begins. Effective 8:00 am, July 14, the following restrictions are being eased provincewide:

Gatherings

  • people can have informal gatherings with their household members and close social contacts to a maximum of 25 indoors or 50 outdoors without physical distancing or masks, unless they are in a public place where masks are required
  • faith gatherings, weddings, funerals and associated receptions and visitation hosted by a recognized business or organization can have 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors or 250 people outdoors

Business

  • restaurants, licensed establishments and casinos continue to operate with existing mask and distancing rules; there can be up to 25 people per table; customers can go to the bar to order; establishments can return to their normal service hours; they can have performers following the limit for arts and culture performances
  • events hosted by a recognized business or organization can have 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors or 250 people outdoors; organizers need a plan following guidelines for events
  • people can follow the informal gathering limit for dancing together at events and at bars or restaurants, with distance between groups; the indoor limit applies to dancing indoors and on patios at bars or restaurants
  • all retail stores can operate at maximum capacity with public health measures in place, including distancing and masks
  • meetings and training hosted by a recognized business or organization can have 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors or 250 people outdoors

Recreation and sport

  • fitness and recreation facilities such as gyms, yoga studios, pools and arenas can operate at maximum capacity with public health measures in place, including distancing and masks
  • a wide variety of recreation and leisure businesses and organizations, such as dance classes, music lessons, escape rooms and indoor play spaces, can operate at maximum capacity with public health measures in place, including distancing and masks
  • organized sports practices, games, league play, competition and recreation programs can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors without physical distancing; tournaments are allowed when they are run by or affiliated with a provincial sport organization, following their Return to Sport plan
  • audiences follow the gathering limits for events hosted by a recognized business or organization
  • day camps can operate with 30 campers per group plus staff and volunteers, following the day camp guidelines
  • masks are no longer required for children age 12 and under in child-care settings, including day camps and overnight camps
  • masks are no longer required at outdoor public places where it may be difficult to maintain physical distance, such as markets, playgrounds and parks

Arts and culture

  • professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors without physical distancing
  • audiences follow the gathering limits for events hosted by a recognized business or organization
  • museums, libraries and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia can open at maximum capacity with public health measures in place, including distancing and masks

Continuing care

  • all long-term care residents can leave the facility to visit indoor and outdoor public places like parks, stores and restaurants
  • fully vaccinated residents can have visitors in their rooms and visit their family’s home, including overnight stays
  • residents who are not fully vaccinated can have visitors in designated indoor visitation areas People who do not follow the public health measures can be fined. For example, the fine is $2,000 for each person at an illegal gathering.

The reopening plan can be found HERE.

Additional Resources:

  • More information can be found HERE.
  • For a full list of restrictions, visit the Nova Scotia Health Authority website.

Access to Paid Sick Leave for Nova Scotians

Nova Scotians who must take time off work due to COVID-19 may now qualify for up to four paid sick days under Nova Scotia’s new COVID-19 Sick Leave Program. The $16 million program is expected to help more than 100,000 Nova Scotians.

People who cannot work remotely and miss less than 50 per cent of their scheduled work time in a one-week period due to COVID-19 may be eligible. This includes those who need to take time off because they are awaiting a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test appointment, and those who are getting tested, are self-isolating while awaiting test results, or are going to get vaccinated. 

The sick days do not have to be taken consecutively. Any sick days taken between May 10, 2021, and July 31, 2021, may be eligible for the program.

“We want employees to stay home if they are feeling unwell and follow public health protocols to help reduce the spread of COVID,” said Premier Iain Rankin. “Paid sick leave means they won’t have to make a difficult decision between their health and the health of others, or their own financial well-being.”

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 Sick Leave Program covers employee wages, including wages of self-employed people, up to a maximum of $20 per hour or $160 per day. The maximum payment over the 12-week period is $640 per worker. Eligible businesses that continue to pay their employees during their leave will be eligible to be reimbursed by the program.

The program complements the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), which may apply after an employee has been off for 50 per cent or more of their scheduled work week.

The Nova Scotia Co-operative Council will administer the program on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia. The program will be retroactive to May 10, 2021.

Full details, including application forms, will be available when the program launches on May 26 at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/paid-sick-leave-program

Province Amends Liquor Licensing Regulations

The Nova Scotia government is amending the Liquor Licensing Regulations to help the restaurant and bar industry while ensuring protections are still in place for the safe and responsible sale and consumption of alcohol. In addition, restaurants, and bars now have the option to include cocktails and mixed drinks for delivery or take-out with food orders while the state of emergency order is in effect.

The new regulations allow for more choices for home delivery and take-out of alcohol with food orders. The changes go into effect on May 26, 2021, giving bars and restaurants the option to:

  • expand the list of alcoholic beverages allowed with food orders to include manufactured ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages such as coolers
  • increase the value of a bottle of wine allowed with a home delivery to more than three times the cost of the food order to allow higher-end wines to be sold with food purchases

Other changes include:

  • simplifying rules for operators who have both an eating establishment and a lounge licence at the same location and harmonizing hours of operation across all classes of licence by allowing all licensed restaurants and bars to sell or dispense liquor on Sundays starting at 10:00 am. Currently, lounge licensees can’t open until noon
  • allowing children and youth under 19 years of age in all licensed establishments that have food service to stay for one extra hour, until 10:00 pm, with a parent or adult guardian

Changes have also been made under the Emergency Management Act. They come into effect May 26, 2021, and will continue until the state of emergency ends. They include:

  • allowing for third-party delivery services and drivers to deliver alcoholic beverages with food if they meet certain conditions, including training for the safe and responsible sale of alcohol
  • implementing a 15 per cent cap on fees bars and restaurants pay for third-party deliveries and a 10 per cent cap if a customer uses a food delivery app to order

Quick Facts:

  • new protocols and training will be mandatory for third-party drivers who deliver alcoholic beverages with food orders. Click here for information.
  • many of the amendments help to level the playing field for operators who have both an eating establishment and lounge licence
  • liquor licensing regulations establish the rules for liquor licences and how licensed establishments operate

Additional Resources:

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.

NOVA SCOTIA INCLUSIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH

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.

BUSINESS SUPPORT PROGRAMS

Small Business Impact Grant Part 3

The Nova Scotia government is investing $17.2 million more in the Small Business Impact Grant Part 3 program to support small businesses affected by the ongoing provincial COVID-19 restrictions.

The province will top up payments made to all small businesses that qualify under the program by $5,000.

“Through our ongoing consultations with the business community, we recognized the challenges many owners are facing as these necessary additional public health protocols remain in place,” said Inclusive Economic Growth Minister Labi Kousoulis. “Our businesses have been resilient, and our government will continue to be there to support them. By working together, we will slow the spread of COVID-19 so that we are best positioned for recovery.”

Eligible businesses receive 15 per cent of their sales revenue for the month of April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000.

Businesses must have experienced an average monthly revenue decrease of 30 per cent or more for the period of March 1, 2020, to February 28, 2021, compared to the same period the previous year, or expect at least a 30 per cent decrease in revenues in May 2021 resulting from the new restrictions introduced in April.

For businesses established after Feb. 1, 2020, the program provides a grant calculated as 15 per cent of the sales revenue for any month from April 2020 to March 2021. The applicant can choose the month.

New applications will be processed under the new terms. Business owners can apply HERE.

Businesses are being asked to continue to do everything they can to stop the spread of COVID-19 during the shutdown period, including allowing employees to work from home where possible, ensuring employees stay home if they are feeling unwell, and continuing to operate in the best interest of safety.

Questions can be sent to SBIG3@novascotia.ca.

Small Business Loan Guarantee Program

The Small Business Loan Guarantee Program is available for qualifying businesses. More information can be found here.

Small Business Real Property Tax Rebate Program 

The Small Business Real Property Tax Rebate (SBRPTR) Program will rebate 50% of commercial real property taxes paid by eligible applicants pursuant to the final 6 months of the 2020-21 tax year.

Eligible applicants include businesses whose primary business activities include restaurants offering in-person dining service; bars or licensed drinking establishments; personal services including hair salons, barber shops, spas (excluding pet care), nail salons, and body art establishments; fitness, recreational and leisure facilities, including gyms, yoga studios, indoor play areas, arcades, climbing facilities, dance classes, and music lessons; independent retailers with a physical retail location; and live performing arts.

Corporations with multiple properties must submit an application per business location.

Tourism Accommodations Real Property Tax Rebate Program – Part 2

The Tourism Accommodations Real Property Tax Rebate Program Part 2 will give eligible tourism accommodation operators a one-time 50% rebate on the first 6 months of their commercial property taxes paid for 2021-2022. More information can be found here.

The Digital Assistance Program for Small Business

A new $2.5 million program is now available to help small businesses across Nova Scotia attract more customers and grow sales in the digital economy.

The Digital Assistance Program for Small Business allows eligible businesses to connect with digital consultants for services such as website development, digital marketing strategies and e-commerce tools, up to a value of $5,000. Digital Nova Scotia will administer the program, which is based on the highly successful Tourism Digital Assistance Program, now in its second year.

Businesses that qualified for the Small Business Impact Grant Part 3 will be automatically eligible for the program. If capacity allows, the program will be expanded to other businesses.

Digital Nova Scotia will host an online platform to manage the submission of expressions-of-interest from those pre-qualified businesses that want to participate. Once a business is approved, Digital Nova Scotia’s needs assessment will help identify a shortlist of digital service providers to address the needs of each participating business.

Qualified digital service providers will have expertise in developing websites, search engine optimization, digital marketing and social media strategy, and building online booking systems and e-commerce tools. Businesses will also have access to an introduction to digital marketing along with live sessions which include webinars, workshops and virtual panel discussions.

Funding for the program will come from the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Response Council.

Online applications and more information on the program are available via Digital Nova Scotia.

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 nsbi.ca/bdp 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 NSRentDeferral@novascotia.ca.

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.