Liberals revamp rent relief for businesses hit by Covid-19, expand loan program

By Staff, with files from The Canadian Press | October 9, 2020 | Last updated on October 9, 2020
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The federal government will provide direct help to businesses hit by the Covid-19 pandemic to help them offset the cost of rent, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.

He said a revamped commercial rent-relief program will cover up to 65% of eligible expenses for companies, and up to 90% for those subject to localized lockdowns.

The government will also cover up to 65% of eligible wages through its subsidy program but only until the end of December, and expand a well-used loan program by providing an added $10,000 that could be forgivable.

Trudeau said that even though many businesses have reopened, a number of them are not at full capacity, while others are worried about surviving a second wave.

He said the government wants to help those companies hang on, and keep their workers employed.

Statistics Canada reported today that the country added 378,000 jobs in September, bringing overall employment to within 720,000 of pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, the unemployment rate fell to 9.0%, continuing its slide down from the record-high of 13.7% recorded in May. Still, there were 1.8 million Canadians unemployed in September, with the vast majority, about 1.5 million, looking for work.

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate would have been 11.9% in September had it included in its calculation people who wanted a job but didn’t look for work.

The 378,000 jobs added “smashed” consensus expectations of 150,000, wrote Derek Holt, Scotiabank vice-president and head of capital markets economics, in a research note on Friday. But September’s “may be the last of the great jobs reports as October faces rising downside risk.”

One contributing factor to the gains was jobs for women aged 25 to 54, which increased by 134,000 as children returned to school.

“With the mothers-fathers gap now shut, this suggests it all happened in September so don’t look for a repeat of this effect in October,” Holt wrote. “September’s upside poses downside into October.”

CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes warned that the good news from September comes with new virus cases trending in the wrong direction. After reporting record numbers of new cases in recent days, the Ontario government imposed restrictions on restaurants, gyms, movie theatres and casinos in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region.

As a result, “not much can be extrapolated from the solid print for September to future labour market readings,” Mendes wrote.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the measures unveiled by the government Friday, including the new rent support measure that will be in place until next June, are part of a targeted plan promised in last month’s throne speech.

The top of the rent relief will go to those who have had their incomes drop the most, with a sliding scale of help for others who have not been hit as hard.

“This is not for everyone. Some businesses are able to work at full capacity despite Covid-19 and they are doing well and that’s great,” Freeland said Friday.

“This support is not designed for them. These measures are targeted for those who need it most.”

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Staff, with files from The Canadian Press

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