Ottawa offers direct rent relief for businesses, adds forgivable $10,000 to loan program

Aid will cover up to 90% of expenses for businesses subject to lockdowns

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OTTAWA — The federal government will provide direct help to businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic to help them offset the cost of rent, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.

He said a revamped commercial rent-relief program will cover up to 65 per cent of eligible expenses for companies, and up to 90 per cent for those subject to localized lockdowns.

The government will also cover up to 65 per cent of eligible wages through its subsidy program, but only until the end of December, and expand a well-used loan program by providing an added $10,000 that could be forgivable.

Trudeau said that even though many businesses have reopened, a number of them are not at full capacity while others are worried about surviving a second wave.

He said the government wants to help those companies hang on, and keep their workers employed.

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Statistics Canada reports today that the country added 378,000 jobs in September, bringing overall employment to within 720,000 of pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, the unemployment rate fell to 9.0 per cent, continuing its slide down from the record-high of 13.7 per cent recorded in May. Still, there were 1.8 million Canadians unemployed in September, with the vast majority, about 1.5 million, looking for work.

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate would have been 11.9 per cent in September had it included in its calculation people who wanted a job, but didn’t look for work.

But looming over a jobs report filled with positives was the potential for a rollback as COVID-19 case counts rise, with the pandemic straining a historic economic crisis.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the measures unveiled by the government Friday, including the new rent support measure that will be in place until next June, are part of a targeted plan promised in last month’s throne speech.

The top of the rent relief will go to those who have had their incomes drop the most, with a sliding scale of help for others who have not been hit as hard.

“This is not for everyone. Some businesses are able to work at full capacity despite COVID-19 and they are doing well and that’s great,” Freeland said Friday.

“This support is not designed for them. These measures are targeted for those who need it most.”

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