In this photo taken on March 25, 2020, streets of downtown Victoria were quieter than usual in the wake of physical isolation mandates from the provincial and federal governments. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)

Businesses hard-hit by COVID-19 to get 75% in rent cost relief: Trudeau

Government to cover 50 per cent, with expectation that 25 per cent be absorbed by property owners

The federal government has announced rent relief for small- and medium-sized businesses hard-hit by COVID-19, with 50 per cent supplemented by governments and an expectation that property owners absorb the other 25 per cent.

Wearing a red tie in honour of the victims in the recent Nova Scotia shooting rampage, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed details about the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program on Friday (April 24) outside of Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.

“If you had to close up shop because of public health recommendations, if you don’t have a lot of money coming in because people aren’t spending much these days, you may be worried about keeping your office space,” Trudeau said.

The rental assistance was first announced on April 16, but the federal government needed to convene with individual provincial leaders, who have jurisdiction over rental rules.

“The government will cover 50 per cent of the reduction, with the property owner covering the rest,” Trudeau said.

To be eligible, small and medium-sized businesses must have a monthly rent cost of less than $50,000 and be experiencing at least a 70-per-cent decrease in revenue due to the pandemic.

Non-profits and non-government organizations are also eligible. Rent support will be retroactive for April, and be available for May and June.

The program will operate through a rent forgiveness agreement between the business owner and mortgaged property owner. The agreement must stipulate that the property owner will reduce rent by at least 75 per cent over the three months, as well as pledge not to evict the tenant while the agreement is in place.

Trudeau said business owners who cannot afford the remaining 25 per cent in rental costs can apply for the one-time business loan announced in March, which allows for eligible businesses to borrow $40,000 with one-quarter forgiveness.

Trudeau pledged that options for larger businesses will also be made available in coming weeks.

This week, Saskatchewan announced it would be reopening some businesses on May 4, as part of a five-phase plan.

Starting May 4, dentist offices, optometry clinics and physical therapy providers can open, while some retail stores might be allowed to operate as of May 19.

The rental assistance comes as newly released data from the federal government shows that there have been more than seven million unique applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit – the federal emergency aid program which gives eligible workers $2,000 a month in funds amid the pandemic.

That means that $22.4 billion has been paid out through the program, which has a budget of $24 billion.

Trudeau is scheduled to hold a conference call with provincial and territorial premiers this afternoon, at which he is expected to raise another issue that is under provincial jurisdiction — the tragedy unfolding at under-staffed long-term care homes where more than half of Canada’s deaths from COVID-19 have occurred.

– with a file from The Canadian Press


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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