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Ottawa proposes more rent relief for businesses, organizations hit by second wave

Tuesday, November 03, 2020 @ 4:24 PM | By Terry Davidson

As part of its response to the second wave of COVID-19, Canada’s government is aiming to increase rent support for hard-hit businesses, non-profits and charities, and it has launched online help for small businesses wanting to break into new international markets.

On Nov. 2, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced Bill C-9, new legislation that would give targeted support to businesses and organizations hit hardest by the ongoing health crisis — now into its second wave with spikes in cases impacting various parts of the country.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland

According to a government news release, the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, which would pick up where the previous program left off, would “provide direct and easy-to-access rent and mortgage interest support to tenant and property owners until June 2021 for qualifying organizations affected by COVID-19.”

The subsidy would provide a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible expenses until Dec. 19, 2020, retroactive for the period between Sept. 27 and Oct. 24, for businesses suffering a drop in revenue as a result of the pandemic.  

It would also provide lockdown support in that an additional 25 per cent would go to “qualifying organizations” subject to a lockdown and having to close or “significantly limit their activities” under a public health order issued by the federal government, a province, territory, municipality or regional health authority.

Together, these aid initiatives could mean support of up to 90 per cent for those businesses hardest hit.

The legislation would also see an extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until June 2021. The subsidy would remain at the current rate of up to 65 per cent of eligible wages until Dec. 19, 2020.  

“To have a strong and sustainable recovery, we need to be sure that we do the right thing — now — from a public health perspective,” said Freeland during Nov. 3 press conference. “Just look around the world. There are too many places that, hoping the pandemic was beaten, rushed to open … too soon. The result was a resurgence in the virus, and money that was pumped into economic stimulus was wasted and the economy is being hit harder than it should have been. The business support measures we introduced in Parliament … are designed to support the difficult work of our public health officials and the agonizing decisions that they must make. If [they] believe limited lockdowns are the best way for us to fight [COVID-19], the federal government will step in with additional support for affected businesses.”  

Ottawa is also now helping small businesses with trade during the health crisis.

On Nov. 3, Minister of Small Business Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng announced help for small businesses in “navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in the global marketplace.”

This aid will flow through Canada’s CanExport SMEs program, a $190-million initiative originally launched in 2016 to help these business owners break into new international markets by helping them pay for travel costs and other expenses.

However, with travel currently restricted due to the pandemic, the program will pivot to now help these businesses expand their e-commerce presence by partially covering costs for online sales platforms, digital strategy consulting, advertising and “search engine optimization.”

The program will also help them attend virtual trade shows and other “business-to-business events,” and assist in them in dealing with “COVID-19-related trade barriers by helping pay for new international market certifications and requirements.”

It will also provide “dedicated support” to Indigenous and women-owned small businesses, which the government states “have been disproportionately impacted” by the health crisis.

“Our innovative and resilient small businesses across Canada continue to find new ways to translate today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities,” said Ng in a statement. “The new measures will help small business owners and entrepreneurs continue to adapt to the economy of the future and succeed in the global marketplace amid COVID-19.”

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