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A group representing Canada’s small business sector has launched a petition pressing the federal government to halt the phasing out of financial support programs.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says small business owners are keen to replace subsidies with sales but only 35% are back to normal levels of sales and many don’t see that happening until next year.

In addition to closing the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan program last month, Ottawa has started to phase out the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS).

The subsidies are expected to be eliminated after Sept. 26, following three months of reductions.

The federation is calling on the federal government to keep the subsidy at June levels and extend them until the economy is fully open.

It also wants all independent businesses, including new firms, to have access to these supports.

“While these programs are costly, it is important to keep in mind that businesses who no longer need support will not be eligible anyway as the subsidies are based on a sliding scale tied to their loss in revenue,” stated CFIB president Dan Kelly.

“After 16 long months of the pandemic, restrictions are finally being lifted, but for many small businesses it’s not over yet. It’s critical that we come together at this time, with a federal election looming, to ensure that the support programs are there to get us to the Covid finish line.

Despite continued pandemic hardships in the short term, a new CIBC study suggests optimism for the long term is growing among Canada’s small business owners.

The findings — based on an online poll in June of more than 1,000 business owners who were also Maru Voice Business Canada panellists — found that 69% said they were more hopeful about the future, up 10 percentage points from a November poll.

Fewer also said they felt negatively impacted by the pandemic (58%, down from 68% in November), though there were still worries about reduced consumer demand (34%) and overall business viability (21%). Concerns about the availability of inventory or materials was also noted by 19% of respondents.

In the face of these issues, small business leaders are not only taking steps to exceed health and safety protocols (26%) but also bumping up their online efforts (25%).

Further, “Almost a third (29%) reduced operating expenses to get through the crisis while 20% had to dip into savings,” a release said.