Ontario partners with federal government to give $900M in rent relief for small businesses

Apr 24 2020, 9:54 am

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province is partnering with the federal government to provide a total of $900 million in rent relief for small businesses and landlords affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Ford said he is committing $241 million of the total rent relief, with the remainder coming from the federal government with the new Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA), to ensure small businesses are ready to reopen their doors when the emergency measures are lifted.

“The vast majority of Ontario’s small businesses and landlords are struggling during this extraordinary public health emergency. That’s why we are doing everything we can to support them through these tough economic times, so they can hit the ground running when we are in a position to open up the provincial economy,” Ford said.

“I want to thank the federal government for partnering with us to help our small businesses and commercial landlords. I look forward to working together to also provide much-needed support to residential renters ahead of May 1.”

The OCECRA will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners experiencing potential rent shortfalls because their small business tenants have been significantly impacted by the pandemic.

According to the province, to receive the loan, property owners will be required to reduce the rental costs of small business tenants for April to June 2020 by at least 75% and commit to a moratorium on evictions for three months.

Minister of Finance, Rod Phillips, said that landlords or property owners will need to still pay 25% of the rent.

In order to support businesses facing economic burdens during the pandemic, Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, has implanted a series of cash flow supports amounting to $10 billion to help sustain jobs and the economy.

Ontario has also suspended time-of-use electricity rates for eligible small businesses, as well as residential and farm time-of-use customers, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate, 24 hours per day, seven days a week for 45 days.

By switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50% compared to on-peak rates.

Ford said the Ontario government is also working with the federal government to develop the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Loan that will enable up to $40 billion in lending, supported through Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank.

“This program will help businesses meet cash flow requirements through guaranteed loans,” the province said.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, a rent relief program to help businesses who are struggling to pay their landlords due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Small businesses are having trouble making rent because of COVID-19,” said Trudeau, who added that the federal government reached an agreement with provinces and territories to lower rent by 75% for small and medium sized businesses.

This will be applied for April, May, and June.

Trudeau said that the government will cover 50% of the reduction, with property owners covering the rest.

Businesses paying less than $50,000 per month in rent and have temporarily closed or suffered a 70% drop in pre-coronavirus revenues, as well as non-profit organizations, will be eligible for the assistance program.