Over half of small businesses not able to pay May rent without additional support

Urgent need for provinces to work with federal government to deliver rent relief 

Toronto, April 20, 2020 –Small businesses strongly support (93 per cent) the federal government’s announcement that it intends to work with provinces to help with rent, finds a new survey taken over the weekend by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Rent relief is urgently needed as only one in five businesses is fully open and revenue declines are dramatic for nearly all small firms. Over half of small businesses say they will not be able to pay May rent without assistance (up from a quarter that were worried about paying April rent) and many remain concerned about permanent closures.

“Last week the federal government announced a new rent program, I know many business owners are anxiously waiting for the details as the stress of having bills mount with no revenue is getting more intense,” said Laura Jones, CFIB’s executive vice-president.

Key survey results include: 

  • 92 per cent think provincial governments should provide protection to commercial tenants to prevent evictions during the COVID-19 emergency
  • 91 per cent agree that for rent assistance to be meaningful, it needs to be grants or rent forgiveness, not just loans/deferrals
  • 75 per cent believe the cost of commercial rent that cannot be paid due to COVID-19 revenue losses should be shared between governments, landlords and tenants, with 19 per cent disagreeing
  • Over half (58 per cent) will not be able to pay May rent in full without further assistance (up from 25 per cent for April), compared to 37 per cent who say they can pay, while the rest don’t know 
  • 54 per cent trust their landlord to be reasonable, 33 per cent do not 

“At this point, deferring rent isn’t going to cut it, businesses desperately need rent forgiveness to help pay bills. Provincial governments have ordered many small businesses to close but very few have taken any steps to help owners with the costs of paying rent on a location they cannot open,” Jones said. 

CFIB is calling for these costs to be shared by governments, landlords and tenants. CFIB also continues to call on provinces to protect commercial tenants, otherwise in good standing, from being evicted due to COVID-19. 

“April 1 was scary, and it’s important to get the right government relief in place fast to prevent May 1 from being a nightmare on Main Street,” concluded Jones.


Results are based on 6,881 responses from CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received between April 17 and 19, 2020. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error for national results of +/-1.2%, 19 times out of 20.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.