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Canada's small businesses call for major changes to COVID-19 relief programs

Last Updated Aug 13, 2020 at 7:14 am PDT

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Summary

Business owners calling for change say they’re falling through the cracks of federal COVID-19 emergency programs

Canadian Federation of Independent Business wants feds to make changes to emergency programs like CERB, CEBA

CFIB warns many small businesses may have to shut down permanently if they don't receive the help they need

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Thousands of small businesses say federal COVID-19 assistance programs need urgent updating.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has launched a new petition calling on the federal government to expand the availability of multiple emergency assistance programs impacting small firms.

The petition has gathered more than 7,000 signatures, as of Thursday morning. It includes a call to extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for those who haven’t found work, as well as increase the amount people can earn to top up that benefit.

The federation also wants to see an increase in the amount of emergency loans available to small businesses through changes to the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA).

“The government has created this program to provide $40,000 interest-free loans, and a portion of that is forgivable if the business repays the rest of the loan,” CFIB President Dan Kelly says.

 

“It’s a good program. Unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of businesses, those that don’t have payrolls, those that, unfortunately, do not operate with a business bank account, they have a personal bank account, or brand new firms that continue to slip through the cracks of the program.”

The CFIB would like to see that amount increased to $60,000 and for half of the amount to be forgiven once a portion is repaid, so that $30,000 would function more like a grant and wouldn’t increase debt for small firms.

Kelly notes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to expand the CEBA months ago, but that hasn’t happened yet.

“Small businesses are getting angry because their businesses are failing and the support program that’s supposed to be available to them just isn’t,” Kelly tells NEWS 1130.

It includes a call to extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for those who haven’t found work, as well as increase the amount people can earn to top up that benefit.

According to the CFIB, many businesses have still been unable to access the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) as landlords refuse to apply. Kelly says the federation and its members would like to see a restructuring of that program.

“We need to make sure that the rent support can get directly to the tenant rather than requiring that the landlord turn his or her key to agree to the program in the first place,” Kelly says, revealing an estimated 0.5 per cent of firms have been able to access CERCA.

He feels landlords are not likely to agree to eat 25 per cent of the rental costs as is currently expected by the federal government.

He adds businesses also want to see the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy tweaked, calling for a simplification of the application process as well as ensuring business owners and their families working there “can have some of their dividend income covered.”