By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Local businesses hard hit by the second lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto could have up to 90 per cent of their rent subsidized in some cases.
The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), as it’s called, is one of several more supports the federal government has enhanced and extended until June 2021 responding to more lockdowns around the country in the fall and coming early winter season including Toronto.
CERS provides rent and mortgage subsidies of up to 65 per cent of eligible expenses to qualifying businesses, charities, and non-profits. In cases where businesses are in lockdown zones, they can receive an additional 25 per cent subsidy.
Businesses can also take advantage of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which covers 65 per cent of an employee’s wages for qualifying employers, available until June 2021.
The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses are still available, with up to 25 per cent of the loan forgivable. For individuals, there are supports for loss of income, which have all been extended into the new year.
The former Canada Emergency Response Benefit has been phased into Employment Insurance. Anyone who has lost income due to COVID-19 is eligible for support via EI. If not eligible for EI, in the case of some small business owners, they are eligible for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). EI will offer a taxable benefit of $500 per week, as will CRB.
“We know this health crisis has had a devastating impact on small biz, lockdowns that have accompanied have exacerbated those issues,” Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said.
He said the federal government is in a “stronger fiscal position” to help Canadians with financial challenges from COVID-19, but he urged the Province of Ontario to “step up” with funding allocated to it for pandemic relief.
“The provincial government is sitting on money to help people,” Erskine-Smith said. “They need to get those dollars out the door immediately and step up to help businesses.”
He’s referring to unallocated $9.3 billion noted by the province’s Financial Accountability Officer.
Citing the FAO, Erskine-Smith said that on Sept. 10, the FAO noted that of the first $105.6 billion spent in Ontario by governments, $102 billion or 97 per cent, was federal money.
As a way to immediately help people, the province could start with a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions again, he added.
“It’s one thing to spend federal dollars, but at a minimum to establish a moratorium, it costs them nothing,” Erskine-Smith said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canadians would begin receiving vaccinations for COVID-19 in 2021.
While the details are still being drawn on the logistical challenge of vaccinating millions of Canadians, Erskine-Smith said Canada is in a good position.
“This is the largest vaccine rollout in history,” he said. “We’ve entered in more agreements with vaccines than any other country to ensure a readily available supply.”
Those include established agreements with AstraZeneca, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Medicago, and Moderna for a combined “414 million doses of vaccine candidates, with a guarantee of at least 190 million doses,” Erskine-Smith said.
“Health Canada has received submissions for authorization of three vaccines, and expedited reviews are underway.”
The earliest vaccinations are expected in the spring, aimed primarily for essential workers, long-term care homes, vulnerable populations, seniors, and those with pre-existing conditions.
“There’s also a plan underway to help provinces distribute millions of vaccines in early 2021, including through the use of the Canadian Armed Forces, and through the procurement of logistics services,” Erskine-Smith said. “Our public health officials have already procured materials for the coming deployment, including needles, syringes, alcohol swabs, and cold storage.”
Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.