COVID-19: Government Announces New Rent Program, Improved CEBA and CEWS, CERB Replacement

Please note: the federal government is constantly updating their website as new information is announced. Remember to check Canada’s official coronavirus webpage and CREA’s COVID-19 online hub to stay up to date.

Following months of lobbying by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) in collaboration with other business groups, today the government announced the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), as well as enhancements to the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled several new initiatives and changes to existing programs. CREA welcomes these announcements and is pleased to see our efforts to keep these programs a part of the conversation have resulted in direct improvements that provide much needed help for our members.

The CERS is a new rent subsidy program replacing the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), providing rent subsidies directly to businesses, rather than landlords. It will support businesses, charities, and non-profits that have suffered a revenue drop, by subsidizing a percentage of their expenses, on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of 65% of eligible expenses until December 19, 2020. Organizations would be able to make claims retroactively for the period that began September 27 and ends October 24, 2020. A top-up subsidy of 25% for organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order issued by a qualifying public health authority will also be available in addition to the 65% subsidy.

In other support for businesses, the CEWS has been extended until June 2021, as promised in the Speech from the Throne, and will remain at the current subsidy rate of up to a maximum of 65% of eligible wages until December 19, 2020. For more information, visit the CEWS website.

It was also announced CEBA has been expanded. Eligible businesses will be able to access an interest-free loan of up to $20,000, in addition to the original CEBA loan of $40,000. Half of this additional financing would be forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022. Additionally, the application deadline for CEBA is being extended to December 31, 2020. For more information, visit the CEBA website.

Since CECRA, CEBA and CEWS were announced, CREA has worked with government officials to underline the programs’ shortcomings, as well as propose solutions that make them accessible to Canadian businesses needing it most.

CREA continues to push for further improvements, such as CEBA eligibility for businesses operating with a personal bank account. On that issue, government officials have assured stakeholders a solution is in the works, and CREA remains committed to working toward an amendment that makes CEBA eligible to every business in need.

The federal government survived a confidence vote last week as Bill C-4 was passed unanimously in the House of Commons and received royal assent. This COVID-19 response bill will provide further financial support to Canadians who are struggling due to the effects of the pandemic and comes into effect as previous support programs expire.

The initial bill tabled by the Liberal government was subject to criticism from opposition parties. Following negotiations to secure support from the NDP, the government opted to table a new bill incorporating the agreed upon changes.

Bill C-4 establishes the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) to support Canada’s economic recovery in response to COVID-19.

The CRB provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 and are not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. If you are eligible for the CRB, you can receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a two-week period, and you may apply up to a total of 13 eligibility periods (26 weeks) between September 27, 2020, and September 25, 2021.

You may earn employment or self-employment income while you receive the CRB; however, to make sure the benefit reaches those who need it most, there’s a difference in how much you can keep if you earn more than $38,000 in the calendar year. This amount excludes CRB payments. You will have to reimburse $0.50 of the CRB for every dollar of net income you earned above $38,000 on your income tax return. For more information, visit the CRB website.

The CRSB provides $500 per week for up to a maximum of two weeks, for workers who are unable to work due to the effects of COVID-19, while the CRCB provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for workers who are forced to take care of a family member for reasons related to COVID-19.

The government also announced they will provide an additional $600 million to support workers and businesses through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF). The RRRF was created to mitigate financial pressure experienced by businesses and organizations to allow them to continue their operations, including paying their employees, and support projects by businesses, organizations and communities to prepare now for a successful recovery. For more information, visit the RRRF website.

The measures covered in this email are part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. The government is constantly assessing the evolving situation and is likely to introduce additional measures as it deems necessary. We are monitoring the implementation of existing measures and continue to advocate on behalf of REALTORS® as new initiatives are developed.

This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. If you need professional advice you should consult a lawyer, accountant or other qualified professional.

The Canadian Real Estate Association
Phone: 613.237-7111 Email: info@crea.ca

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