Ottawa Extends Commercial Rent Relief Program For Small Businesses

Ottawa and the provinces have agreed to extend a commercial rent relief program to help cover July costs for small businesses.

The program had paid out $152 million in forgivable loans to landlords that had agreed to give rent breaks to more than 20,000 tenants as of June 21. It has a budget of over $2.97 billion, based on the latest federal spending estimates on pandemic-related aid.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said the rent help should run through to September at least, and that the program needs to ease access so more businesses qualify to receive it.

Take up of the rent relief program was slow at first, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to publicly urge landlords to apply for forgivable loans through the program. Finance Minister Bill Morneau sounded more upbeat late last month when he said applications were rising thanks to provinces' banning tenant evictions during the ongoing pandemic.

The program provides forgivable loans that cover half of rent for eligible small businesses, and requires landlords to waive a further one-quarter of what they'd otherwise be owed. Among the changes included in the extension of the program is that insurance payments for missed rents and provincial rent supports won't be clawed back from the rent-support loans.

Previous amounts clawed back under the program will be returned to landlords that previously received loans through the program. Landlords who qualified for loans by showing revenue declines of 70% in April, May or June will qualify in July without being reassessed.