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Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

Last Updated Nov 23, 2020 at 10:40 am PDT

FILE -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Businesses struggling to survive the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply for the new rent subsidy

New Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy covers up to 65 per cent of rent on sliding scale based on revenue declines

Unlike old subsidy, new rent-relief program does not rely on landlord participation

OTTAWA — Businesses struggling to pay the bills because of the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to start applying today for a long-awaited new commercial rent-relief program offered by the federal government.

The new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy replaces an earlier rent-support program for businesses introduced in the spring that saw little pickup because it relied on landlords to apply for help.

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest on a sliding scale based on revenue declines, with an extra 25 per cent available to the hardest-hit firms.

Federal cabinet ministers will highlight the program during a news conference this morning in which they will also open two initiatives designed to help businesses owned by Black Canadians.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents thousands of small companies across the country, is welcoming the new rent program as long overdue for firms hard hit by COVID-19.

However, it is criticizing the government for not opening it to businesses that would have qualified for the previous rent-relief program, but could not access federal funds because their landlords chose not to apply.

Meanwhile, Conservative critic Pat Kelly is urging the federal government to pause CRA audits on small businesses receiving the wage subsidy, saying that’s the last thing they need right now.

“Thirty per cent of small businesses are unsure of just how much longer they can stay open,” he says.

“This is not just about doing the right thing to support small businesses but it’s also about respecting democracy.”

Kelly notes audits can resume at tax season.