Canadian Small Businesses Have $139 Billion In Pandemic-Related Debt

The debt burden of Canadian small businesses has swelled to $139 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

New polls from CFIB suggest that businesses that have taken on debt during the pandemic now owe an average of $170,000. For businesses in the hospitality sector, that figure nearly doubles to $333,174.

Collectively, the CFIB estimates that small businesses owe a total of $139 billion due to COVID-19, up from $135 billion in February of this year.

Seventy-six per cent (76%) of business owners polled said it will take them at least one year to repay their debts. Eighty-seven per cent (87%) of business owners in the hospitality sector said it will take at least two years, with one-in-four expressing concern they may never be able to clear their current debt level.

The CFIB estimates 39% of small businesses in this country are back up to normal sales levels and is urging governments to implement provincial "stay open" strategies, to avoid another lockdown, as well as extending the repayment term for the Canada Emergency Business Account loan.

The CFIB findings come from two separate polls. The first survey, which included nearly 2,900 business owners, was conducted in early August, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8% 19 times out of 20.

The second survey included more than 5,300 business owners being polled between May 5 and May 31. That poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3% 19 times out of 20.