Small business rent crisis demands more provincial hardship grants and expanded federal support as COVID-19 restrictions continue

Only half of small business owners are confident their business will survive if current conditions last until the end of May

Toronto, April 15, 2020 – Ninety per cent of small businesses want governments to provide hardship grants to help cover rent and other costs and help them deal with their mounting debt according to new survey results by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) taken over the long weekend. Most have seen a dramatic drop in revenue with one in five saying revenues have dropped to zero.  

“The risk of otherwise healthy businesses failing is getting worse by the day as bills are piling up with little or no revenue coming in. We’re asking provincial governments to flatten the curve on small business failure with hardship grants for rent,” said Laura Jones, CFIB’s executive vice-president. “We are really encouraged that the federal government is looking at new support for commercial rent as the $10,000 forgivable portion of the Canada Emergency Business Account is helpful, but many don’t qualify and even if they do, it only goes so far. We continue to recommend expanding eligibility criteria for CEBA so more can qualify.”  

CFIB recommends provinces create provincial hardship grants of up to $5,000 a month for as long as COVID shutdowns last, including the month of April. Two provinces, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, are already providing one-time grants for small businesses based on 15 per cent of a business’s monthly sales revenue, up to a maximum of $5,000.  

“Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan each have a form of hardship money available and we applaud them for it,” said Corinne Pohlmann, senior vice-president of national affairs at CFIB. “We would like to see other provinces adopt the Saskatchewan model and making grants widely available to all small businesses, especially vulnerable sectors such as retail, hospitality and personal services.”

Other notable survey results include:

  • 85 per cent of businesses think the situation will get worse for their business before it gets better;
  • 80 per cent are worried about cash flow;
  • Average small business rent is $10,000 a month (with a wide range around this number);
  • 75 per cent think businesses that can respect social distancing and provide protection for employees should be allowed to reopen. 

CFIB has also called for a 25 per cent reduction in annual property taxes and eviction protection for commercial tenants otherwise in good standing for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Small businesses take no joy in asking for government help but we are in extraordinary circumstances. Without more lifelines too many otherwise healthy businesses will be left drowning in debt,” said Jones. 

Read the full survey results for more details.

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