Cash flow and mounting debt are among the biggest worries small businesses have related to COVID-19, finds a new survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). CFIB recommends that the federal government expand its Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program and amend other emergency programs to help small firms navigate the tough road to recovery they face.
“We have heard very positive things about CEBA from our members who are able to access it. The program is delivering needed immediate support to many struggling businesses—especially as help with other major expenses like rent is still weeks or months away,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly.
CEBA allows the banks to provide up to a $40,000 interest free loan to business owners, with up to $10,000 forgiven when the government-backed loan is repaid.
“Unfortunately, there remain far too many businesses unable to access CEBA loans due to a requirement to demonstrate a 2019 payroll between $20,000 and $1.5 million. This cuts out those that pay with dividends (e.g. family businesses), those who pay contract workers (e.g. private gyms) and those who rent chairs to other independent business owners (e.g. hair salons). It is especially unfair that some of the smallest and hardest hit business owners are unable to access this lifeline,” Kelly added.
CFIB is sending an open letter to MPs this week with key recommendations on improving CEBA, including:
- Expand eligibility for CEBA to include businesses that pay dividends, employ contractors, and allow those that rent space to contractors to use other ways to satisfy the payroll test
- Allow those that have a personal bank account and brand new businesses that have at least $1,700 in payroll (or equivalent) in January and February 2020 to access the program
- Increase the amount made available to business owners by $20,000 each month the emergency phase continues and expand the forgiveness portion by 25 per cent each month
“Most business owners are not in a position to take on more debt. While the initial $40,000 loan was helpful, that money will quickly be spent if the current situation continues,” added Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB’s senior vice-president of national affairs.
CFIB also included recommendations to improve the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Agreement (CECRA):
- Extend CEWS beyond June 6 for as long as various levels of emergency provisions are in place
- Extend the employer payroll tax rebate for all staff on payroll who come under CEWS and not just for those on furlough
- Expand eligibility for CECRA to allow businesses who have suffered revenue losses of more than 20 per cent and are not eligible for other federal programs to access it.
- Simplify CECRA to allow tenants to directly access the 50 per cent government relief if their landlords indicate they will not apply.
“We appreciate that the government has had to work quickly to create and roll out these programs,” concluded Kelly. “They have already shown they are willing to listen, so we are calling on them to make further critical changes to ensure the programs are really and truly working for small business owners.”