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Relief programs offered through the Government of Canada have helped businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Jeffrey Heard, Business Account Manager at RBC, shares some of the most common ways businesses have made use of these programs over the last several months.

Many Canadian small business owners have used government relief measures offered by the federal government. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), more than half have used the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and three out of five have used the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). In fact, almost 800,000 businesses have been approved for CEBA loans, with over $30B in funds approved to date.

If you haven’t taken advantage of these programs yet, it may be worth taking another look as eligibility has increased over time. While the first iterations of these programs didn’t reach as many owners, they have evolved to become applicable and available to more business types and sizes.

The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) are continuously evolving. For the most up-to-date requirements, deadlines and criteria, visit the Government of Canada website:


In a recent conversation, Jeffrey Heard, Business Account Manager at RBC, shares how owners are making use of CEBA and CEWS to help sustain their businesses during these challenging times.

1. To cover basic expenses

For those businesses hit particularly hard, the CEBA loan has enabled them to cover essential costs such as rent, insurance and other non-deferrable expenses. “CEBA has allowed businesses to stay afloat and have some cash flow,” says Heard. “This program provided much-needed breathing room.”

2. To purchase new equipment

Many businesses have had to pivot, introduce new safety measures and revise their processes in order to stay open. The CEBA loan has given owners room to spend on new essentials – such as patio construction, outdoor heaters, plexiglass barriers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – so they can adapt and continue to serve customers.

3. To retain (or bring back) employees

A lot of businesses were forced to let employees go at the onset of the pandemic – but were able to bring them back with the help of CEBA or CEWS. “Businesses really don’t want to let people go,” says Heard. “Hiring someone new in a year will be a lot more expensive and time consuming. Businesses would much rather keep that employee who’s been there since Day One.” Government support has allowed businesses to re-hire.

Three Tips for Managing Through COVID With Government Relief

It’s not easy to navigate through these times, but the right advice can help. Here are three tips to help you move your business forward with the support of relief measures.

1) Focus on what you can control. When times are uncertain, your revenues will not necessarily remain consistent, and are therefore difficult to forecast and control. You do, however, have some measure of control over the way you manage your cash flow and the relief programs you sign up for. Be sure to take the steps – and take advantage of the relief – that can support your business.

2) Use your cash in the right order. Heard advises that business owners use available cash according to a hierarchy that makes the most sense based on the cost of borrowing. “The cash you have on hand doesn’t cost anything, so use that first,” he says. “Then, look at your CEBA loan, which is interest-free until December 31, 2021. Other credit lines or loans should follow.

3) Familiarize yourself with program details. The Government of Canada is providing loan forgiveness for a portion of the loan, providing certain conditions are met. Be sure you’re up to date on the key details, dates, repayment terms and forgiveness criteria so you can make the most of this loan program.

CEBA and CEWS have helped thousands of businesses keep the lights on this year, enabling them to adapt to changing times and/or gain confidence for future operations. If you haven’t taken advantage of these relief measures yet, it’s a good idea to look into current criteria and deadlines and see how they can support your business.