Applications for the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) officially opened as of Monday, November 23.
The launch of the program comes just days after it was passed into law, following an extensive review process by the Senate.
The rent subsidy replaces the federal government’s previous Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA). That program, which expired at the end of September, faced criticism and low uptake as it required commercial property owners to apply for the loans rather than businesses themselves.
Unlike its predecessor, CERS provides funds directly to qualifying renters and property owners, without requiring the participation of landlords.
CERS covers up to 65 percent of eligible expenses for businesses impacted by the pandemic. This includes rent, property taxes, insurance, and interest on mortgages for businesses until December 19. Businesses forced to close in order to follow public health orders will also be eligible for a 25 percent top-up.
The program is retroactive and the applications that opened Monday allow businesses to apply for the rent subsidy for the period from September 27 to October 24. Applications for the second CERS period (October 25 to November 21) will open on November 30.
Another notable change is that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is running CERS, whereas the previous program was run by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The CRA noted that applicants whose claims successfully clear its automated verification system and are registered for direct deposit can expect to begin receiving payments on December 4.
One aspect of CERS is also set to be amended, despite the program recently being passed into law. Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), highlighted one issue on Twitter with the legislation when it passed in the House of Commons. A provision in Bill C-9 requires business owners to have paid rent for a given period before receiving funding. Kelly noted that many businesses have had rent costs delayed or are months behind in payment and would be unable to prove payment in order to receive funding.
The federal government is proposing to amend the CERS by tabling a new bill to address the issue. This would allow applicants to include eligible expenses in their CERS application before the expense has been paid.
“This means that organizations can include rent and other eligible amounts already paid in respect of a claim period as well as amounts that are payable for the claim period when submitting their CERS applications,” the CRA said. “Amounts that are not paid at the time of the application will have to be paid no later than 60 days after payment of the subsidy.”