Pandemic changes the way we live, work

The COVID pandemic brings the need and opportunity to stop and think about where you were and where you are heading towards.

Part, or a substantial portion, of your income may have been lost, ranging anywhere from business, job, property or investment. Your spending priorities and allocations may be twisted and need to be adjusted, whether it’s from reduced travelling, working from home, or reduced contacts with your broader family, friends, customers or even neighbours. Your shopping habits or channels may take some leaping changes, e.g., shopping online as opposed to shopping at the mall in person, deferring your large capital expenditure items, or stepping up to support more local businesses as opposed to the big-box stores.

The Canadian governments’ COVID response may arguably be somewhat slow or not decisive enough. However, the governmental COVID financial assistance is plenty and generous. The financial assistance options allows more people to stay home and reduce the COVID transmission cases.

The largest share of financial assistance comes from the federal government. Some of the provincial governments also offer some targeted help particularly to the frontline health workers, senior homes, businesses, and children during the period of lockdown. Municipal governments’ assistance is limited, at best, more in the form of property tax deferrals.

Below is a summary of the major direct financial assistance programs from the federal government. These programs typically require you to submit timely applications. There are also one-time enhancement pays in child benefits, senior benefits and GST credits that are granted without the need for you to submit the applications. Refer to the following for more information.

Businesses and organizations

  1. Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS): offering up to 75 per cent of wage subsidy with monthly revenue decline of at least 30 per cent.
  2. Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA): offering $60,000 interest-free loans with $20,000 forgivable.
  3. Temporary Wage Subsidy (TWS): offering 10 per cent wage subsidy for the three months from March to June 2020.
  4. Rent subsidies: including Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS).
  5. Support for specific industry sectors: such as oil and gas, air transportation, and culture, farming, fishery, and food supply, etc.
  6. Liquidity support and capital relief: such as Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP), and other credit and liquidity support through the Bank of Canada, CMHC and commercial lenders, etc.


  1. Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB): about $2,000 monthly assistance for an eligible person not working.
  2. Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB): about $1,250 monthly for the four months from May to August 2020.

The first step and the priority will always be to survive and prosper on your own. Take a hard look at the new environment, and assess what you and your business need to change, adapt and succeed. The governmental financial assistance should be only ancillary, transitional and temporary.

For whatever assistance programs that require your applications, be sure to take timely actions to study and apply, while observing and respecting the application eligibility criteria and guidelines. Seek professional help if needed.

Survival is most critical during this time of crisis. The Chinese put crisis and opportunity as a combined term together, meaning that there is always an opportunity in disguise hidden right behind the crisis.

It all depends on how you handle the crisis, and your ability to turn the crisis into an opportunity. You want to ensure you, your family and your business all remain healthy, physically, financially and mentally. Below are some strategies and alternatives you can consider.

  1. Assess and plan out your financial resources and restructure your business and financial plans, as needed. If you have adequate financial resources, you could also consider alternatives such as early retirement, working part-time, etc. On the flip side, you may find yourself having more time to do other things that you may enjoy more while focusing a bit more on financial planning and investment management.
  2. Conduct an industry and business assessment. Will your goods or services continue to be in demand during and after COVID? Do you need to modify your business model in light of the new environment with less physical contacting and more remote technology?
  3. Look into other alternative and synergetic revenue sources. Right-size your business as you need, and examine business synergies with others and explore vertical and horizontal integration possibilities. Can you market and sell online, or tap into other social marketing channels and programs? Can you service your clients or deliver your goods to your customers beyond the traditional, fixed brick-and-mortar location?
  4. Cost-cutting and control: If your revenue generation decreases or even stops during the COVID pandemic, you’d also need to examine your cost structure and cost components to stop the loss and bleeding.
  5. Customer still priority: Keep in mind your customers remain your priority whether during or after the pandemic. Your customers will remember how well or poorly you treated them during the crisis. What are your competitive advantages? Are you leading and competing on quality, cost or uniqueness?
  6. Take advantage of new and emerging technologies. Learn, adapt and adopt cloud computing and storage capabilities. For example, many of our business clients have started to use the productive cloud accounting software of QBO (QuickBooks Online). Gone are those old days with bank reconciliations and laboursome year-end processes of manual shoebox tidying and entry inputting. One client even boasted that his company broke its records in completing its financial statements and filing its yearly corporate tax returns within just a month after the company’s fiscal year-end. With cloud accounting, your accounting can be done in real-time, anytime and anywhere.

It is heart-breaking to hear on the news that so many lives and families are destroyed every day. The world, environment, politics, economics, and trends are all changing at a very fast pace. What has not changed is that there will always be constant changes in our life and business.

What remains constant is your determination to survive, your capability to adapt and your knowledge to succeed.

Story by Cheng-Chung Yu, CPA



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