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Canada's hardest-hit businesses call on feds to extend key COVID supports

FILE - Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Businesses hard-hit by COVID-19 want feds to extend wage, rent subsidies until end of year

Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses warns many companies will fail without extended supports

OTTAWA – Some of the hardest-hit businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic are calling on the federal government to extend some key emergency supports, or they warn many companies will fail.

A group named the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses — which represents the hotel, tourism, and festival sectors — is calling on the federal government to use its April 19 budget to extend the federal wage subsidy and the federal rent subsidy until the end of the year.

They are currently set to expire on June 5.

Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, says the fate of many businesses hangs in balance.

“Sixty per cent of Canada’s hardest-hit businesses face bankruptcy by the end of the year,” she explained. More than 6,000 businesses were surveyed by the coalition.

Susie Grynol, who represents the Hotel Association of Canada, says extensions to the relief programs would be a lifeline.

“Their continuation would make the difference between a vibrant tourism and cultural industry in Canada, and a generation-long loss of events, storytelling, and tourism experiences that make our country so special,” the association’s president and CEO added.

The group says even if the Canada-U.S. land border opens up this summer, it will take some time for tourism and events to get back to normal, and that’s why longer-term help is crucial.

Members argue the cost to taxpayers will be much less than the cost to the economy if these businesses can’t survive.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced extensions to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy earlier this month, noting they would be kept at current levels until June.

The wage subsidy is available to eligible employers who have seen a drop in revenue during the health crisis. The program helps cover part of an employee’s wages, with the goal of helping businesses retire and retain workers.

The rent subsidy provides eligible businesses, non-profits, or charities with funds to help cover part of their commercial rent or property expenses.

The federal government announced on Tuesday that it would be tabling its first budget in more than two years in April. The government opted not to introduce one last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was just beginning to take hold in this country.

The budget is expected to outline the government’s full spending on the pandemic, which has sent the deficit for the fiscal year to almost $400 billion.

-With files from The Canadian Press