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Small businesses call on Ottawa for COVID-19 rent relief replacement

Last Updated Sep 29, 2020 at 12:41 pm PDT

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

The little corner store or small independent restaurant may not survive if a rent relief replacement isn't found: survey

One in five small businesses that rent commercial space is unlikely to remain open unless receiving some relief

The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program ends Thursday

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — The little corner store or small independent restaurant may not survive if a replacement can’t be found for the commercial rent assistance program to help them through the COVID-19 pandemic, warns a small-business lobby.

According to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey, one in five small businesses that rent commercial space is unlikely to remain open unless receiving some form of rent relief.

With the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program coming to an end on Thursday, the CFIB’s Corrine Pohlmann said Ottawa needs to come up with a better replacement.

“It means 80 per cent probably need some kind of help. The majority — so about 57 per cent — say it would significantly increase their odds of staying open if they had some kind of rent relief,” she added.

Pohlmann also said the rent assistance program needs to be replaced with something that’s independent of landlord participation.

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“So, right now, CECRA can only be applied for by the landlord, so your landlord has to want to do it in order for you to benefit from it.”

The CFIB notes most landlords weren’t willing to do that, adding any replacement will need to live well into the fall and possibly beyond.

The survey found 15 per cent of qualifying businesses were shut out of CERCA because their landlords did not apply, while another 16 per cent did not qualify based on revenue.

“CECRA had a deep unfairness built into it that was crazy-making for businesses that needed the help and qualified based on revenue losses but were shut out because their landlord didn’t apply. Rent relief is long overdue for a fix,” says Laura Jones, executive vice-president at CFIB.

The CFIB also wants a lower bar of qualification, as well as a top-up for business owners who met the 70 percent CECRA revenue loss criteria, but whose landlords did not apply for the program.

“We also want to see it be more related to what the revenue losses are,” she said. “The 70-per-cent revenue loss that was there under the program was way too high.”