Province, feds partner to create commercial rent relief program

TORONTO — Small businesses and landlords across the province are getting a helping hand from the provincial and federal governments.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday that the Ontario and Canadian governments have partnered to create the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (OCECRA) Program.

More than $900 million has been earmarked for the program. Ontario has committed $241 million, with the federal government contributing the remainder.

The OCECRA program will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners who are experiencing rent shortfalls because their small business tenants have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order for a landlord to receive the loan, property owners will be required to reduce their tenant’s rent by at least 75 per cent for April to June and commit to stopping evictions for three months.

“The vast majority of Ontario’s small businesses and landlords are struggling during this extraordinary public health emergency,” said Premier Doug Ford.

“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 added, “I want to thank the federal government for partnering with us to help our small businesses and commercial landlords.”

The funding announced on April 23 is the latest in a series of announcements by the province during the COVID-19 pandemic designed to help Ontario businesses.

The province has previously announced other measures, such as the reduction of hydro rates to the off-peak rate 24 hours a day, new tax credits, extension of deadlines to pay taxes, doubling the Employer Health Tax exemption for 2020 and the deferral of WSIB premium payments.

Minister of finance, Rod Phillips stated that these measures are designed to ensure businesses are able to re-start operations quickly when the time is right.

“To help stop the spread of COVID-19, businesses have closed their doors and employees have stayed home and that has been working, but it has also created significant financial hardship,” said Phillips.

“By subsidizing rent payments, reducing taxes, extending deadlines, and eliminating penalties and interest, we’re helping to ensure businesses can start up quickly when the time is right.”

Also announced on April 23 was the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Loan. This Ontario-Canada joint program will permit up to $40 billion in lending to help businesses meet cash flow requirements through guaranteed loans.

Residential help on way

Ford also hinted at an announcement in the coming days about help for residential renters.

“I look forward to working together to also provide much-needed support to residential renters ahead of May 1.”