The federal government has announced it is extending the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program through the month of August. The program was originally extended for the month of July.
According to the government, as of July 30, over $613 million in rent support has been deployed.
The CECRA, announced in April by the federal government, will lower rent by 75 percent for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. Provinces and territories have agreed to share the costs of the CECRA, which was operational by mid-May, however many have yet to provide details on how they will implement the program.
“Over 700,000 employees have benefited from the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, people who have been able to keep their jobs because of the help businesses got through this program,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his Friday press briefing. “We know there are even more people still to reach.”
Businesses that qualified for the CECRA based on existing program parameters will be able to apply for the additional one month based on having a 70 percent revenue decline for April, May, and June, without reassessing whether they continue to have a 70 percent revenue decline in July or August. Both existing CECRA applicants and new applicants can opt for the August rent reduction.
The CECRA allows small businesses to pay just 25 percent of their monthly rent, with governments and property owners absorbing the remaining 75 percent. Businesses that pay $50,000 or less per month in rent and have temporarily ceased operations or experienced at least a 70 percent drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues will be eligible for the program. Property owners will need to opt into the CERCA in order for businesses to be able to benefit from the program.
Originally intended to span April, May and June, on June 29, the program was extended through the month of July. According to the federal government, as of July 30, a total of over $613 million in rent support has been deployed.
Groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) have urged the government to expand CECRA so more businesses qualify for the program and still access it if landlords do not apply. In June, CFIB claimed some businesses were finding the requirement to attest to 70 percent revenue losses for April, May, and June challenging, given that June revenues were uncertain.
“It’s June 1st and rent relief is a mess that needs a major clean-up,” said CFIB’s executive vice president Laura Jones last month. “Workable rent relief is make or break for over half of the small businesses we surveyed and governments need to make this a top priority yesterday.”
The CFIB recommended simplifying the application process, expanding the number of months CECRA covers, reducing the 70 percent revenue loss criteria, and put a temporary moratorium on commercial evictions for tenants in good standing with landlords. The CFIB also urged the federal government to find another way for businesses to access the program directly, rather than relying on their landlords to apply.
The August extension was announced during Trudeau’s press briefing, where he also announced the federal government’s intention to transition everyone on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to employment insurance. Trudeau said more on that initiative would be announced in the coming days.
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