UPDATE: On May 8, 2020, the federal government announced an extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy beyond June 6, 2020, which reflects what we've asked for in our letter on behalf of Calgary's business community.
Dear Ministers Morneau, Ng, and Joly:
The COVID-19 outbreak continues to impact all Canadians, and its economic and health challenges are significant to say the least. We have been encouraged by the resiliency and compassion of all Canadians, and while our top priority must be to continue following the expert advice of our public health officials, provinces – such as here in Alberta – are beginning to gradually and thoughtfully re-open our economy thanks to the hard work of countless Canadians. Throughout this crisis, we have also been encouraged by the government’s continued updates to Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
A critical piece of this plan to help businesses manage this crisis has been the introduction of both the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA). The CEWS covers 75 percent of an employee's wages (up to $847.00 per week) for employers across various sectors who have suffered a drop in gross revenues of at least 15 percent in March, and 30 percent in April and May. The government has indicated that the program will be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020.
The CECRA is administered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and uses forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to reduce rent by 75 percent for their affected tenants. A tenant is responsible for covering 25 percent, the property owner 25 percent, and the federal government and provinces share the remaining 50 percent.
Amidst this backdrop, we – similar to others across the country – continue to hear stories from our members where their landlord has indicated that they will not be participating in CECRA. Despite businesses wanting to take advantage of the support offered by both the federal and provincial government, this arrangement conditions tenants accessing this support on the willingness of their landlord.
For these reasons, we urge the federal government to:
Extend the CEWS beyond June 6, 2020 to the end of 2020 help bridge the gap to long-term sustainable recovery.
Stage this CEWS relief by sector and/or size to ensure that all Canadian businesses can recover effectively at their own pace. Some businesses will continue to need to support while others re-open – our small and medium-sized businesses are unique across the country, and as they make up the backbone of our economy, we must ensure they are supported and that their needs are met.
Consider extending CEWS to workers that are part of the gig economy and solopreneurs. We need to ensure that all types of business are supported.
Explore avenues to allow tenants to apply directly to the CECRA or a separate modification of this program to ensure that all tenants can access this critical support, regardless of the position of their landlord.
I have never believed more in the grit and resiliency of Canadians and in our ability to both manage this outbreak and to recover and emerge on our front foot, stronger and more united than ever before. We will get through this together, but only through recognizing that the road to recovery will be slow and uneven, and that it is paramount to ensure that we continue to support Canadian businesses today, and in the weeks and months to come.