Relief is on the way for small businesses in Ontario, as commercial landlords can now officially apply for rent assistance to help tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through a multi-level partnership between the Ontario and federal government, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program will keep more small businesses in operation and more people employed as the province gradually (and safely) restarts the economy.
The province of Ontario is committing $241 million to the program, which will provide more than $900 million in support for small businesses across the province during the pandemic.
The CECRA for small businesses, which is administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), provides forgivable loans to eligible commercial landlords to help cover 50% of commercial rent for tenants for the months of April, May, and June 2020. The tenant will be responsible for covering up to 25% of the rent so that up to 75% of the rent is covered.
To receive the loan, eligible commercial landlords will be required to enter into a rent reduction agreement with their impacted small business tenants for April to June 2020, which includes committing to a moratorium on evictions for three months.
"We know that some of the necessary measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 have created significant financial hardships for small businesses," said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. "That's why we've partnered with the federal government to deliver urgent rent assistance and help both small businesses and commercial landlords make ends meet. I encourage all commercial landlords to take advantage of this benefit as soon as possible in order to provide some certainty for our small businesses."
Phillips says that as Ontario's economy continues to gradually reopen, the government will continue to work with its federal partners to ensure people and businesses across the province get the support they need.
"We want to do everything we can to ensure our small businesses are able and ready to reopen their doors when the time is right," said Phillips.
The rent assistance comes as calls to improve emergency measures for small business owners feeling pressure from the coronavirus pandemic have grown over the last few weeks, while a national survey that found half of small Canadian businesses said they would not be able to pay their June rent without further assistance from the government.
Small businesses can find out how much rent support they may be eligible for here. It is currently unclear if there will be any repercussions for those commercial landlords who refuse to participate in the program, though Premier Ford has been outspoken in his condemnation of those landlords who are thinking of passing up the funding.
“Don’t force my hand. Work things out because I’m trying to compromise here. We are giving you 75% of what you’re asking for,” Ford said earlier this month, adding, “Nothing drives me more crazy than greedy landlords taking advantage of people and small business owners that are just trying to keep their head above water.”