Trudeau did not provide details on the new program, called Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, but said Ottawa would have to collaborate with the provinces in order to set it up. The support would be available for April, May and June rents, he said.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau later said the government would be offering loans, including forgivable loans, to commercial landlords who offer rent reductions to businesses.
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Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, called the program a step towards national relief for “that giant expense that many business owners are struggling with right now.”
Questions remain, however, about whether commercial landlords would be required to participate, and how much of the relief would actually be passed onto the tenants, he said.
“We have more questions than answers at this point, but we are urging all provincial governments to work closely with the feds in designing meaningful and immediate rent relief for small business owners that are worried about making May rent,” he said.
“And many of them have missed April rent already.”
Trudeau made the announcement a day after Canada’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 1,000. More than 29,000 Canadians have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
He also announced that Ottawa would be expanding a previously announced business loan program so that companies with annual payrolls between $20,000 and $1.5 million would be eligible for bank loans of up to $40,000.
“This is money entrepreneurs and employers can use to cover operational costs and help with other immediate needs,” he said.
The program was previously available to businesses with payrolls between $50,000 and $1 million. To date, more than 195,000 loans have been approved, Trudeau said.
While Kelly welcomed the news that more businesses would qualify for emergency loans, he said some companies still fall outside the criteria, such as those that pay in dividends.
“This expansion, though, will help thousands and thousands of additional business owners at a critical time,” he said. “And so we welcome the support, hope that the federal government remains open to further changes.”
—With files from David Akin, Global News