CFIB statements on COVID-19 disruptions, government response

CFIB statement on Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Toronto, ON (Mar. 25, 2020) – CFIB welcomes the federal government’s announcement of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which will provide $2,000 per month to workers who have lost their job, including the self-employed. This is a significant step forward in addressing the growing economic emergency that accompanies the nation’s efforts to avoid the COVID-19 health crisis.

We are particularly pleased that the federal government has indicated an employer will not have to lay off a worker to allow them to qualify for the benefit. How this will operate in practice remains a question employers will need quickly resolved. CFIB also calls on provincial governments to amend labour legislation to ensure an employer can move an employee to be paid by the CERB or temporarily lay them off to collect Employment Insurance without triggering normal termination pay requirements.

CFIB believes that this new program does not replace the need to increase the 10 per cent wage subsidy to 75 per cent of wages for all employers, up to a cap of $5,000 per worker per month. A direct wage subsidy to employers will be a far faster way to ensure workers are paid than the CERB, particularly as the new program will not begin until early April and will pay workers only once per month. A wage subsidy will also help employers who can keep their employees working from home but have no or limited business income with which to pay them.

CFIB is focused on measures that will keep the connections between workers and employers and not require layoffs. This is imperative to ensure employees can go back to work the day after the emergency ends, allowing Canada’s economy to return to normal as quickly as possible.

CFIB statement on increased federal wage subsidy announcement

Toronto, ON (Mar. 27, 2020) – While details are scarce, CFIB thanks Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau for responding to the calls from small business owners for a more significant wage subsidy package to help small businesses retain workers. The announcement today of a 75 per cent wage subsidy for SMEs affected by the COVID-19 crisis will not help every company or employee, but will help small firms retain hundreds of thousands of workers who would otherwise be laid off. There are thousands of employers who have been making decisions day by day, doing their best to continue to pay their workers with the full knowledge that their resources will soon run out.

It is especially encouraging to hear that the new wage subsidy will be backdated to March 15, which will allow some small businesses that have had to lay off staff to rehire them quickly. We have already heard from a few that will do just that. Ensuring as many workers as possible remain connected to and paid by their employers will reduce the financial and mental stress on workers and ensure that Canada’s economic recovery will begin the day after the health emergency phase ends.

It is critical that small business owners get details on the program quickly. CFIB’s Business Helpline will be flooded with calls from small business owners asking important questions, including:

  • Who qualifies (sole proprietorships, partnerships, medium-sized firms)
  • Is there a cap per employee, per employer
  • Does it require the business to pay 100 per cent of regular wages, particularly on wages above any per employee cap

Further, the interest-free loans for small businesses through the Canada Emergency Business Account will be of assistance to firms struggling with ongoing fixed costs, particularly with the news that up to $10,000 will be forgivable. CFIB is also pleased the government accepted its recommendation to defer GST/HST to June as it will assist entrepreneurs with cash flow issues.

CFIB will review the details of these efforts as soon as they are available and post information to members and small business owners at www.cfib.ca/covid19. The Federation will continue to lobby for other key COVID-19 relief efforts for small businesses, including postponing tax hikes, such as April’s federal carbon tax increase. Our attention will continue on additional measures to reduce the fixed costs on SMEs, including rent and property taxes.

One quarter of small businesses cannot pay their April rent/mortgage

CFIB urges governments to help hardest hit with property tax relief and emergency money to cover fixed costs

Toronto, ON (Mar. 30, 2020) – New survey results taken over the weekend show that a quarter of small businesses are not able to pay April’s commercial lease or mortgage payments as a result of COVID-19 disruptions, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Hospitality is particularly hard hit with 44 per cent saying they cannot meet their rent obligations. Other sectors hard hit include arts, recreation & information (40 per cent) and personal services (32 per cent).

“Last week brought good news for many with respect to an increased wage subsidy but the next big bill looming for many is commercial rent,” said Laura Jones, CFIB’s executive vice-president. “Business owners—both leasers and landlords—are worried as everyone has bills to pay.”

Key survey results include:

  • Only one in five businesses now report being fully open (down from one in three last week);
  • 86 per cent of small businesses believe government should make emergency money available to businesses that have been hard hit by COVID-19 to cover their fixed costs;
  • 42 per cent of business owners are worried about having to close their business permanently.

CFIB has three main recommendations for governments in this area:

  1. Provincial governments should provide substantial commercial property tax relief for the duration of the crisis (at least 25 per cent reduction in annual total property tax bill).
  2. The federal government should ensure that $10,000 of its Canada Emergency Business Account is forgivable to cover rent and other fixed costs and that eligibility criteria are such that businesses hardest hit and most at risk of closing permanently will have access to the money. The money should be made available as quickly as possible.
  3. Provincial governments should create a hardship fund with additional emergency money for businesses with significant revenue losses, significant cost increases and/or who are at risk of permanent closure due to COVID-19 (up to $5,000 per month for 3 months) to help small businesses pay rent and offset other fixed costs. Priority should be given to businesses that were forced to close and those not covered by federal programs.

CFIB is also calling on provincial governments to create temporary protections to ensure that commercial tenants are not evicted during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We believe a combination of property tax relief that can be passed on from landlords to tenants and hardship money for those hardest hit is the next important thing governments can do to help Main Street survive,” added Jones.

CFIB also has some advice for business owners including encouraging landlords and tenants to continue to communicate and work out arrangements, putting rental deferral agreements in writing, and keeping good records.

“Protecting livelihoods is going to be a group effort—we all need to do what we can including paying bills where possible and negotiating fair arrangements with businesses in our supply chains that have been hard hit,” concluded Jones. “April 1 is feeling scary for some but it’s in everyone’s interest to make this work.”

Read CFIB’s policy backgrounder for more information.

Survey Methodology

These findings are from CFIB’s latest weekly survey on COVID-19 and small business, a new online survey completed by 9,364 CFIB members between March 27 and March 29, 2020. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent, 19 times out of 20.

CFIB statement on details of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

Toronto, ON (Mar. 30, 2020) – While further details on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy are urgently needed, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) believes the information shared today by Prime Minister Trudeau will be a significant relief for tens of thousands of employers and hundreds of thousands of employees. The decisions to make the wage subsidy widely available to employers of all sizes and structures is the right approach given the unique nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. The wage subsidy is the single best measure to help Canada prepare for a quick recovery the minute the emergency phase of the pandemic is over.

CFIB is also pleased that there does not appear to be a cap per employer over the duration of the program. While it is reasonable for government to require evidence of a financial impact on businesses in order to qualify for the program, CFIB has heard from several businesses with very small margins, where even a modest reduction in sales can require significant changes in their staffing levels. We’ve also heard from other businesses where the primary impact has been an increase in their costs, rather than a reduction in business income. CFIB is pleased government intends to keep the administrative requirements light to ensure the support can quickly flow to the businesses to need it. We stand ready to support government with any retroactive measures needed to address anyone found cheating the intent of this or other support programs.

CFIB will be examining the details of the program once announced and will push for any changes that may be necessary to help the broadest number of small and medium-sized businesses keep their staff.

About the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at www.cfib.ca.

Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)

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