Legislation to enable the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) received parliamentary approval late last week and an online application portal was expected to be operational for Nov. 23. In a Friday afternoon address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked the opposition parties for their cooperation in passing the Act, which will also extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) until June 2021.
“Doing the things that protect our health are actually the best things to do to protect our economy,” he asserted. “Going into lockdown and supporting businesses while we’re in that lockdown is a better way of ensuring their success in a few months, in a few years, than trying to tough through a virus that is running around unchecked.”
The new direct relief program for businesses experiencing COVID-19-related financial strains becomes available just as the Ontario government imposes operating restrictions on non-essential businesses in Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton. This follows similar measures the Manitoba government put in place last week.
Under CERS, businesses faced with extra impediments due to public health protocols may be able to qualify for coverage of up to 90 per cent of their monthly rent or mortgage costs. The standard CERS program covers a maximum of 65 per cent of those costs, with payouts awarded on a sliding scale from there depending on qualifying factors.
The Ontario government is also replenishing its fund providing partial rebates of property tax and utility costs. It was established as a $300-million pot in October to assist designated businesses — including bars, restaurants, indoor fitness facilities and other cultural, leisure and hospitality venues — in regions where business operations are subject to stricter pandemic-related controls. Another $300 million has now been injected.
“Ontario will work with the federal government to ensure these supports for businesses in COVID-19 hotspots are available in the most straightforward and seamless way possible by integrating these rebates with the federal Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) program,” a Nov. 20 Ontario government release states. However, that prospective recipients will have to apply separately through the provincial government’s online portal.