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COVID-19: how we’re fighting for better federal relief

Since the beginning of the pandemic, CFIB has listened to its members and worked overtime to push policy makers at all levels of government to provide economic relief measures for small businesses.

We have heard from small business owners describing how difficult this time has been, and thanks to your input, we’ve made significant progress: the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy is available to more businesses; the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy no longer requires your landlord’s involvement; and the Canada Emergency Business Account has risen to $60,000, with $20,000 of that forgivable.

These measures are helpful, but far too many entrepreneurs remain excluded from the scope of the programs.

Here is some of what we have been able to get from the federal government since the start of the current crisis:

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

Applications open

Government is providing a wage subsidy from April 27 until June 2021 to businesses whose revenues are impacted by COVID-19.

For more information including who is eligible and how to calculate your reduction in revenue, visit our COVID-19 CEWS page or the CRA’s CEWS website.

Examples of what CFIB has achieved:What CFIB is pushing for:
  • Expansion of the CEWS from a 10% to a 75% wage subsidy program
  • Changes to tallow more firms to access CEWS. These include:
    • Revenue drop test to access the program lowered to 15% in gross revenues for the month of March (still at 30% for April and May)
    • Additional months to compare sales to help new and growing firms who may not have qualified based on a comparison to last year
  • The extension of CEWS beyond the first June 6th deadline. Now extended to summer 2021
  • The removing of the 30% revenue drop test and the introduction of a sliding scale, allowing firms to qualify for a smaller wage subsidy with a smaller revenue loss
  • Include new firms and those who had a CRA Business Number after March 15th
  • Simplify the wage subsidy and ensure business owners and their family members working in the business can have some of their dividend income covered.
  • Introduce a 25% top-up for businesses that are closed by public health orders as it has for CERS.
  • Show flexibility when CEWS audits are done in the future around the amounts to be paid back should the revenue drops fall short of the 15% or 30% threshold. If a business is 5% or less short of the threshold there should not be any expectation that it will repay the subsidy.

For more details on what CIFB has identified as gaps and recommendations for the CEWS, please read our most recent summary.

$60,000 Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

Applications open

CEBA is a lending program that can help small firms pay expenses that cannot be deferred during this challenging period. The loans are interest-free, backed by the Government of Canada and forgivable up to $20,000 when paid back by December 31, 2022.

For more information on CEBA/CEBA expansion including who is eligible and what do if your application is rejected, visit our COVID-19 CEBA page or EDC’s CEBA website.

Examples of what CFIB has achieved: What CFIB is pushing for:
  • Expansion of the CEBA to increase the loan amount to $60,000 and increase the forgivable portion.
  • Expansion of the CEBA payroll stream from $50, 000 to $1million to $20,000 to $1.5 million
  • Introduction of the CEBA Non-Deferrable Expenses Stream
  • Expansions to CEBA for businesses using personal accounts
  • Include new firms and those who had a CRA Business Number after March 1st
  • Remove the requirement to have signed contracts/agreements dated between January 1st and March 1st to make a business eligible to the non-deferrable expenses stream
  • Make micro-sized with less than $40K eligible in the CEBA non-deferrable expenses stream.
  • Include dividends as an eligible non-deferrable expense.
  • Simplify the tax calendar year requirement
  • Ensuring that EDC continues to improve its call centre capacity and returns quickly to taking direct calls (rather than call-backs)
  • Make businesses using third-party payroll providers eligible to CEBA.
  • If the emergency phase of the pandemic lasts beyond the end of 2020, CFIB urges government to consider expanding CEBA to $80,000 with a 50% forgivable portion.

For more details on what CIFB has identified as gaps and recommendations for the CEBA, please read our most recent summary.

Rent (CECRA & CERS)

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) - CLOSED

From April to October of 2020, the CECRA allowed commercial property owners apply for rent assistance for their tenants. This program is now closed and no longer taking application.

Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) – Applications open

The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) was created to provide rent and mortgage support directly to small businesses, charities and non- profits affected by COVID-19. The subsidy is available on a sliding scale (with a maximum amount of 65%) for businesses that can demonstrate a revenue loss.

An additional top-up (Lockdown support) of 25% (maximum possible subsidy of 90%) of will be available for organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order issued by a qualifying public health authority.

For more information on Rent including who is eligible and what do if your application is rejected, visit our COVID-19 Rent Page or see the CRA CERS website

What CFIB has achieved: What CFIB is pushing for:
  • Replacement of the CECRA and introduction of the CERS program to provide rent relief to struggling businesses. CFIB’s three major recommendations for rent support were implemented through CERS:
    1. The program is independent of landlord participation.
    2. It continues for the months ahead.
    3. Provides support to businesses with revenue losses on a sliding scale.
  • Amendment to the legislation to allow a firm to receive the subsidy in advance with a commitment to use that money to pay their rent bill within 60 days.
  • Ensuring rent support is simple.
  • Include new firms and those who had a CRA Business Number after September 27th
  • Pay 50% of rents retroactively for those who qualified for CECRA from April to September but did not get the support due to the landlord’s lack of participation.
  • Ensure CERS is paid on a monthly, not on a 4-week basis.
  • Make rent paid between non-arm's length entities eligible to CERS.
  • Create a new agreement pathway for businesses without a formalized lease.

For more on what CFIB has identified as gaps, and recommendations in CERS, please read our open letter to finance minister Freeland.

Work Sharing Program

The Work Sharing Program is a three-way agreement that can be negotiated between Service Canada, the employer and the employee to provide EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers. Due to the pandemic, the program has been changed so that:

  • The maximum duration is 76 weeks rather than 38 weeks.
  • The 30 day wait period will be waived solely for those who have used the work-sharing program in the past.
  • Applications will be accepted within 10 days instead of 30.

For more information including who is eligible and how to apply, visit our COVID-19 Work-Sharing page.

What CFIB has achieved: What CFIB is pushing for:
  • Expansion of the work-sharing program
  • Alerted Service Canada to CERB & EI-workshare issues
  • Reduced the red tape in the Work-sharing application process
  • The expanded Workshare to continue to support businesses past March 14, 2021

FAQ on COVID-19

We’re dedicated to supporting your business through this difficult time by compiling answers to the most common COVID-19 questions and keeping you up to date on the latest relief measures from the provincial governments. Visit our COVID-19 Small Business Help Center to learn more.