Ottawa announces new rent relief program for businesses hit by COVID-19 closures

Ottawa announces new rent relief program for businesses hit by COVID-19 closures

Ottawa announces new rent relief program for businesses hit by COVID-19 closures

 
The federal government said targeted aid is coming for some businesses hit by closures as a second wave of COVID-19 hits parts of the country. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, flanked by the prime minister and other cabinet colleagues, announced a combination of new and previously announced measures in Ottawa Friday. “I want to stress that this is not for everyone. Some businesses are able to work at full capacity despite COVID-19 and they are doing well and that’s great,” she said.

Freeland said this support will include an overhauled rent relief program, which the government said will now allow businesses to apply directly for relief through the Canada Revenue Agency until June 2021. The old program, which was meant to ease the pressure on businesses hit by the pandemic by covering a portion of their rent, expired last month. It was roundly criticized by businesses because tapping into the program depended on buy-in from landlords, who were under no obligation to participate. According to a news release from Finance Canada, the new rent subsidy will support businesses, charities and non-profits that have suffered revenue drops by subsidizing a percentage of their expenses on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible expenses, until Dec. 19.

Freeland’s department said a “top-up” emergency rent subsidy of 25 per cent, in addition to the 65 per cent subsidy, will be available to organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order. The government announced plans in the throne speech to extend the wage subsidy program — which is meant to keep employees on the payroll to ensure a smooth post-pandemic economic transition — until next summer. Freeland said today the subsidy will freeze at the current rate of up to a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible wages until Dec.19, and will not decrease on a sliding scale as previously planned. Her department said the government plans to introduce legislation to implement the new rent subsidy and the wage subsidy extension “in the near future.”

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