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Government offering commercial property owners forgivable loans to help provide rent breaks to small businesses

by Morinville News Staff

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the government has updated the criteria for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program for small businesses and that the application process will begin Monday, May 25.

This program provides forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners that give a rent reduction of at least 75 per cent to their small business tenants for June and retroactively for April and May.

The loans would cover 50 per cent of the three monthly rent payments that are payable by eligible small business tenants experiencing financial hardship during the program period. The loans are available to eligible commercial property owners regardless of whether or not they have a mortgage.

Eligible small business tenants are those paying less than $50,000 per month in gross rent in a given location, with annual revenues of less than $20 million (at the ultimate parent level), and who have experienced at least a 70 per cent drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues.

“Canadians want to know that their jobs are protected, and their families are safe and healthy,” Trudeau said in a media release Wednesday. “That’s why we’re stepping up to provide support that will keep workers on the payroll, protect middle-class jobs, and help Canadians recover quickly once we make it through these difficult times.”

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s website will accept applications beginning May 25; however, the application documents are available now.

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On Wednesday, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business announced results of a survey that showed 55 per cent of small businesses are unable to pay June rent without government help.

“We’ve been asking for rent relief since March. Even when CECRA applications become available, we know that program will leave businesses without the help they desperately need. The closer we get to June 1, the more stressful things are getting, and the more business failures we will see. We’re begging governments to move quickly to create additional help outside of CECRA,” said Laura Jones, CFIB’s executive vice-president.

Sixty-seven per cent of CFIB members surveyed say more CEBA money should be forgivable, and 65 per cent of small businesses say governments have been too slow in providing rent relief. More than half (55 per cent) say rent relief could make the difference between their business surviving COVID-19 or having to shut down. That number is as high as 80 per cent for the arts and recreation sector.

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