Small businesses still don’t know what CEWS and CERS will look like past March 14
Government must release eligibility criteria for new claim periods immediately, says CFIB
TORONTO — Eligibility for the federal small business support programs is expected to change in less than two weeks, but small business owners still don’t know what the new criteria will be. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is urging the government to provide some certainty by releasing the new criteria for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) well ahead of March 14, when the new period kicks in.
“Small businesses are already facing an incredible amount of uncertainty with lockdowns and restrictions across the country, fears over the new variants of the virus and a shaky vaccine rollout,” said Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice-President of National Affairs at CFIB, in a prepared statement. “These support programs remain essential for their survival, so they need to know if they will still be able to rely on these programs to make operational decisions for their business.”
More than half of businesses (53%) are currently relying on CEWS and 27% are using CERS in order to cope financially with COVID-19. Across the country, only a quarter of businesses report making normal sales.
In addition to releasing the new eligibility criteria for the upcoming period as soon as possible, the government should ensure that criteria for future claim periods are released at least 30 days in advance to give businesses some ability to plan. The programs should also be extended past June, as it is likely that some restrictions will continue to be in place and many businesses will still not be back to normal sale volumes. Additionally, applications for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) are set to expire on March 31. Businesses continue to struggle with cash flow and a significant number of them are still waiting to see if they will be eligible for the CEBA extension. CFIB is asking the government to extend the application deadline for CEBA so more businesses can get the help they need.
“Small businesses need to know that they will be able to access support for the coming months to cover rent and other fixed costs and keep their employees on payroll,” added Pohlmann. “Extending deadlines and providing some certainty around what is coming would be a big relief for many of them.”