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Coronavirus: Struggling Granville Island businesses face gap in federal assistance

Granville Island businesses worried about surviving crisis
WATCH: Shops and restaurants at popular tourist destination Granville Island are worried about surviving the coronavirus crisis.

Business operators at Vancouver’s Granville Island have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis but those businesses aren’t eligible for federal assistance due to the island’s unique status.

Business at The Cloth Shop, which is located at the Creekhouse, has plummeted 90 per cent since closures began in March.

Owner Maria Roder has been able to survive thanks to her landlord at Creekhouse, who offered two months’ rent forgiveness.

Many B.C. small businesses fear for survival during COVID-19 crisis
Many B.C. small businesses fear for survival during COVID-19 crisis

“We just cried. I mean, what a relief,” she said. “How do you pay $5,000 or $6,000 when you have nothing coming in?”

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But with 39 direct tenants, Creekhouse general manager David McCann says the break on rents can only last so long.

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“We can’t do it beyond June, we’ve used all our financial resources to get to there,” he said. “If we don’t get assistance from our landlord, we’re done.”

READ MORE: Trudeau announces rent relief of 75% for small businesses affected by coronavirus

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) manages Granville Island on behalf of the federal government. But as a Crown Corporation, tenants aren’t eligible for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program.

“It’s a federal program,” McCann said. “They’re the property owner. They should look at it and say, ‘We’re going to at least take care of our own tenants.'”

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces rent relief for small businesses during pandemic
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces rent relief for small businesses during pandemic

CMHC is confident that the program criteria will be adjusted. It has also requested emergency federal funding so it won’t have to solely rely on rent and parking to cover operational costs.

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Receiving this funding would allow us to work with tenants on Granville Island to develop a rent relief program that would help them get through what we’re anticipating to be a 12- to 24-month recovery from the effects of COVID-19,” CMHC-Granville Island manager Lisa Ono said in a statement.

Industries consulting members and government on reopening strategies
Industries consulting members and government on reopening strategies

McCann says businesses he’s spoken to are “thankful for what we’re doing, but they’re really fearful.”

“They’re not big corporations and neither are the owners of the Creekhouse,” he added.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Nearly 5.4M Canadians now receiving federal emergency aid

CMHC has given tenants rent deferral until the end of May. But one business has already said it can’t survive and has shuttered for good.

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“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Roder said. “I’m sure we’ll lose all sorts of little businesses along the way.”