OTTAWA — Canada’s small business minister hinted at the possibility of renewed government support for commercial tenants after the current program runs dry at the end of the month.
While Mary Ng didn’t confirm whether relief would take the form of a forgivable loan, as the current program entails, she assured that the Liberals would step in to help in some capacity.
“I want businesses who are listening to this to know that they’re going to get this [payment] but that we’re listening intently. We are working so that we can ensure you’ll get that additional support and stay tuned,” she said.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance initiative has been extended for eligible small businesses to cover the cost of rent for September, a week after rent was due.
Ng sidestepped questions about why the Liberals waited to announce the extension.
“Rent is an area not of federal jurisdiction. We work very closely with our provincial colleagues and partners. So just as we have done in other months we are doing that as well now,” she said.
It’s the government’s third and final extension.
“This will be the final extension of this program as the government explores options to support small businesses as they face the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic — including the challenges of fixed costs at a time when health concerns and precautions prevent many businesses from operating at full capacity,” reads Tuesday’s press release.
The rent-relief program provides forgivable loans that cover half of rent for eligible small businesses, and also requires landlords to waive a further one-quarter of what they’d otherwise be owed.
Take-up of the program overall has lagged behind expectations and spending is projected to fall far short of the nearly $3 billion the Liberals have budgeted.
Asked about whether the government would consider a redesign of the program given its slow adoption, Ng said “nothing is off the table, particular when it comes to supporting our small businesses.”
With a file from The Canadian Press.
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