New Bill to Give Businesses Direct Access to Rent Relief: Freeland

New lockdown support gives businesses an extra 25 percent to cover expenses

New Bill to Give Businesses Direct Access to Rent Relief: Freeland
Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland takes part via video conference as an update is provided during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Nov. 3, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Isaac Teo

The federal government introduced a bill on Nov. 2 to provide businesses affected by COVID-19 with direct access to emergency rent relief.

Introduced as the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), the new relief program will allow businesses to apply directly for rent and mortgage interest support, and will replace the much-criticized Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistant program that requires buy-in from landlords.

“The only way we are going to get through this crisis is by ensuring Canadians are supported—especially our essential, hard-working small business owners across Canada,” said small business minister Mary Ng in a statement.

The CERS would cover up to 65 percent of eligible expenses to businesses, charities, and non-profits that have suffered a revenue drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic until Dec. 19. Claims could be made retroactively for the period that began on Sept. 27.

Besides that, through the CERS, businesses can get an additional 25 percent through new lockdown support to cover their rent if they “must shut their doors or significantly limit their activities under a public health order issued under the laws of Canada.”

The federal government has also extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) until June 2021 to “protect jobs by helping employers keep employees on the payroll and re-hire their workers.”

In a press conference on Tuesday, finance minister Chrystia Freeland said the measures taken by the government are “the right thing for us to do and it is the economically smart thing for us to do.”

“The business support measures that we introduced in parliament yesterday are designed to support the difficult work of our public health officials and the agonizing decisions that they must make. If our public health officials believe that limited lockdowns are the best way for us to fight the coronavirus, the federal government will step in with additional support for affected businesses as I have outlined. This is to help communities do the right thing and stay safe and to help the affected businesses get through to the other side,” Freeland said.

In response to the announcement, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole posted a statement on Twitter saying that the Liberal government “keep[s] adding red tape for small businesses” when they applied for the CEWS.

“The government should be postponing audits of these businesses until at least June 2021,” the statement reads.

O’Toole also called on the Liberal government to add flexibility in the “Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, and other support programs,” and not to shut down small businesses.

“And if they shut down, all of Canada suffers. That’s because small businesses provide employment for millions of Canadians from coast to coast,” O’Toole said.

With files from The Canadian Press.