September 22nd, 2020
Letter to Ministers Mary Ng and Chrystia Freeland Concerning Extending CEWS and CECRA
Following the events of the past six months, small business owners need more assurance from the government that support will continue over the coming months and years. Businesses that have been the hardest hit, especially those in the tourism and hospitality sectors, have seen massive layoffs and do not know if or when they’ll see business return to pre-COVID levels.
With the Throne Speech tomorrow, and an economic snapshot later this fall, now is an opportune time to show small businesses you have their backs. As the NDP Critic for Small Business and Economic Development, I ask that you show your support for small businesses and their staff by extending the wage subsidy and expanding the commercial rent relief program.
Small businesses have taken on debts, restructured operations for curbside or online sales, and have trained staff in safety measures. As the tourism season ends and the holiday shopping season begins, many businesses do not know if they will see their customers again or be able to keep their staff on. At the same time, the wage subsidy support will be ending and businesses will still need help.
Business owners are counting on your government to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) into Spring 2021, and maintain the Safe Harbour rules so that businesses with 30% or more revenue loss can continue receiving a 75% subsidy. We also call on your government to take measures to help hire employees who have been furloughed or laid off. The recovery from COVID-19 cannot be used as an opportunity for restructuring – we should make every effort to return people to work.
On behalf of the hundreds of business owners who have contacted my colleagues and I, we once again ask that you fix the deeply flawed Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (CECRA). Business owners have been very clear that they need your government to allow commercial tenants to apply to CECRA directly without the involvement of their landlord. Too many businesses have been denied access to CECRA simply because their landlord does not want to participate. Furthermore, many have not been able to access the program because of the exceedingly high revenue loss requirement of 70%. Unlike other federal support programs, this high threshold has prevented access to businesses that need help with fixed expenses. Consequently, CECRA is not available to those who desperately need help and is under-utilized by your own government’s standards–it must be fixed.
Thousands of Canadians would benefit from you working with the provinces and territories to retroactively modify the CECRA program to allow tenants to apply for rent relief independent of their landlord. By implementing a sliding-scale approach, similar to CEWS, businesses at varying levels of need would get much-needed help. Improving the accessibility of CECRA will deliver support to more businesses who are counting on your government for help.
People across Canada will be watching over the coming weeks as you announce more recovery efforts to get the economy moving again. It is crucial that we make every effort to retain and create good paying jobs across the country. We can do that together by creating policies that support wages and keep businesses open.
Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with my office if there’s anything we can do to build for better together.
Gord Johns, Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni