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Home News Feds announce new rent supports for business owners while Chief Public Health Officer concerned with jump in national COVID-19 cases

Feds announce new rent supports for business owners while Chief Public Health Officer concerned with jump in national COVID-19 cases

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Feds announce new rent supports for business owners while Chief Public Health Officer concerned with jump in national COVID-19 cases
Dr. Theresa Tam -- Daily Herald Screen Capture

The federal government announced new support measures on Friday designed to help businesses hit hard by a second wave of lockdowns due to COVID-19.

The biggest is the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), which provides rent support until 2021, and replaces the old Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program that ended in September.

The government also extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until June 2021, and increase the subsidy rate to 65 per cent.

“Even if many businesses have now reopened, most are not back to full capacity, while many others are facing the uncertainty of a second wave,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “Our goal is to support Canadian employers and help businesses bridge to better times.”

“We know that across the country, as we fight this second wave of COVID-19, public health officials have been imposing new restrictions,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland added. “That is the right thing to do, but it imposes costs. This new targeted support will help businesses get through the lockdown and help all of us to do the right thing.”

The new rent assistance program will cover 65 per cent of rent costs or mortgage payments for businesses that saw their income decrease by 70 per cent or more due to COVID-19. Businesses who did not hit the 70 per cent threshold can still apply for the program, but will receive less money if approved.

Freeland said they’re trying to ensure the support gets to the business owners who need it the most.

“I want to stress that this is not for everyone,” Freeland said during a press conference on Friday. “Some businesses are able to work at full capacity, despite COVID-19. They are doing well and that’s great. This support is not designed for them. These measures are targeted to help those who need it most for the time when they need it.”

CERS payments will go directly to tenants instead of to landlords. The Canada Revenue Agency will be responsible for handling the program.

The federal government also announced their intention to enhance the Canada Emergency Business Account. That means eligible businesses can apply for an additional $20,000 loan, with up to half transformed into a grant if it’s paid back by a certain date.

Business owners must prove that they have lost income due to the COVID-19 outbreak to be eligible. Freeland said they would announce the opening application date in the coming days.

The government also announced another $100-million in funding for food banks, food security organizations, Indigenous organizations serving vulnerable groups, and organizations partnering with northern communities.

Trudeau urged Canadians to be cautious and follow public health guidelines as they gather for Thanksgiving this weekend. If all goes well, he said, Canadians can look forward to fewer restrictions in the months ahead.

“What we do now will shape the numbers we see in two weeks, and hopefully set us on the right track for family gatherings at Christmas,” he said during a press conference on Friday.

Canada’s national daily case count has doubled since Sept. 22, with the more than 2,400 new cases reported on Oct. 8 alone. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said that’s the largest single day increase since the start of the pandemic, and she encouraged Canadian residents to be more cautious as they gathered over the long weekend.

“The acceleration of epidemic growth is concerning,” Tam said during a media update. “The actions of individual Canadians are needed now to reverse this trend.”

There have been 175,559 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the outbreak, and 9,557 deaths. An average of 71,000 people were tested daily last week, with roughly 2.5 per cent testing positive.