New business rent relief program will address gap in promised funds, minister says

Click to play video: 'The second wave shutdown and why small business supports weren’t rolled out sooner' The second wave shutdown and why small business supports weren’t rolled out sooner
WATCH: The second wave shutdown and why small business supports weren’t rolled out sooner – Oct 18, 2020

As case numbers surge across Canada, many small businesses are seeing the effects of fewer customers, and some are once again being asked to close up shop to help beat back the country’s second wave of the novel coronavirus.

To help compensate for this, last week the federal government unveiled several new and revamped COVID-19 relief programs, one of which will filter $2.2 billion into the hands of commercial tenants, as well as an extended wage subsidy program that is expected to foot the bill for up to 65 per cent of eligible costs for business owners through December.

They also included a boost to the existing Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA), which will provide interest-free loans of up to $20,000, on top of the original $40,000 CEBA loan.

Read more: Revamped coronavirus business relief programs unveiled as 2nd wave surges

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The business supports close many gaps in previous federal funding initiatives, making them more accessible.

The rent relief program replaces Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program (CECRA). By the time that program came to an end on Sept. 30, the federal government had promised relief, but there was still no definitive plan for business owners for when October rent came due.

The original version of CECRA was also criticized as being too restrictive, and tenants could only qualify if their landlords agreed to the program loans.

But when pressed on why the federal government didn’t unveil the new plan sooner, Mary Ng, Canada’s minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, stressed that the new rent subsidy would be “backdated to September” and a suite of programs to help businesses.

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Coronavirus: Freeland says new measures ‘targeted’ at certain businesses – Oct 9, 2020

“So their eligibility will absolutely get them that coverage for September. It’s also why we introduced additional liquidity through CEBA,” she said on an episode of Global News’ The West Block.

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So far, $30.75 billion in CEBA loans had been disbursed, and the federal government said 769,979 applications were approved.

Ng said the revamped rent relief program was geared at preventing further permanent shut downs for businesses experiencing revenue loss during the pandemic.

Read more: Ottawa still promising but not delivering on new commercial rent relief program

“We know that businesses are experiencing revenue loss, have experienced revenue loss, so that is why we’ve introduced the rent subsidy and … an additional 25 per cent to help with that fixed cost should the business have to experience a shutdown as a result of a health order,” she said.

Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the first COVID-19 wave was expected to result in “160,000 permanent business failures directly attributable to the pandemic.”

“We’re likely to see so many boarded up locations across the country before the end of this,” he said.

— With files from Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson

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