Small business owners rank government aid programs: CEBA, CEWS well used; CECRA continues to fall short

Toronto, August 7, 2020 – While more than half of small businesses have used the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and three out of five have used the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), the government’s rent assistance program remains dramatically underutilized says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Only 15 per cent of small business tenants have used the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program.

  % using program % rated very/somewhat helpful
Business loan (CEBA) 60 69
Wage subsidy (CEWS) 55 67
Rent subsidy (CECRA) 15 20

“While it took a long time, the government listened to small business owners’ concerns with CEWS and made helpful adjustments to key elements that weren’t working,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB president. “To its credit, government did twice expand access to the CEBA loan program, which has provided a critical lifeline to hundreds of thousands of businesses. Unfortunately, progress appears to have stopped as far too many firms remain unable to access CEBA loans, despite a mid-May promise by the Prime Minister to extend these loans to new firms and those without business bank accounts.”

“CECRA is another story. It’s not working for anyone—tenants or landlords—yet no major changes have been made to the program since it was announced, beyond an extension to July and August,” Kelly added.

“CEBA and the wage subsidy are well used by Canada’s SMEs and are viewed as being very or somewhat helpful by more than two-thirds,” Kelly said. “Sadly, only 20 per cent of small firms are satisfied with CECRA as the federal and provincial governments have not yet agreed to allow a pathway for tenants to get direct rent support if their landlord doesn’t participate. 

CFIB has urged the government to make critical changes to CEBA and CECRA, including:

  • Expanding CEBA access to more firms, including those with less than $40,000 in non-deferrable expenses, new businesses and those without business bank accounts
  • Providing clear reasons for any CEBA rejections and personal support for follow-up questions
  • Expanding CEBA to $60,000 with 50 per cent of the loan forgiven upon repayment of the balance
  • Allowing tenants to access CECRA rent support directly, regardless of their landlord’s participation
  • Providing a sliding scale of rent support under CECRA for those with various levels of revenue losses over the months ahead, as has happened with CEWS
  • Simplifying the wage subsidy rules and allowing business owners and family members earning dividends to have a limited portion covered

“We estimate that Canada could lose between 55,000 and 218,000 small businesses as a result of COVID-19 related failures in the months ahead. These programs could be the difference between the best and worst case scenario so it is incumbent on government to continue to listen to small business owners and modify the programs accordingly. Time is running out,” added Kelly.

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

These are preliminary results for Your Business and COVID-19 – Survey #18, a new CFIB online survey started on July 31, 2020, completed by 4,669 CFIB members. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Source of CFIB’s business closure estimates
Detailed in the report "How many Canadian businesses are at risk of permanently closing due to COVID-19?" from July 2020.