Business owners hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic will soon have a lifeline – in the form of federal funding.
The feds announced late last week that an agreement had been reached to provide rent relief to business owners throughout the country – a move celebrated by Brampton councillors, who advocated for the rent relief to aid entrepreneurs and local stores.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program will lower rent by 75 per cent for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19.
Discussions about a potential rent relief program gained traction after Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford and Minister Steve Clark on Apr. 1 advocating for rent relief for small businesses.
Rent relief has been a key ongoing issue for small businesses since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March, said Brown.
“Our businesses are critical to the overall wellbeing of our community, and we have been doing all we can to support them and advocate for them since this COVID-19 crisis began,” said Brown.
“We are pleased to see that our efforts are leading to tangible measures that will make a difference for our business community… COVID-19 has proven to be an economic tidal wave, and we need to partner to support our residents and businesses.”
The move received support from local MPs and MPPs, along with an Economic Support Task Force that was set up in the wake of the inital outbreak to solicit feedback and support from local organizations and business owners.
When polled during an Economic Support Task Force Small Business Tele Town Hall held on Apr. 17, 73 per cent of participants indicated that they had not received any form of rent relief.
The Task Force has held two tele town halls with small businesses with a combined total of 500 businesses participating, and two more with the restaurant sector and larger businesses.
In addition, staff have responded to approximately 1,200 inquiries from Brampton businesses since the onset of COVID-19.
“This has been a very stressful time for everyone – and particularly our business owners and operators,” said regional councillor Paul Vicente, who chairs the Economic Support Task Force. “We have been very engaged with our business community throughout this crisis, and we have heard about their concerns. They are concerned about their businesses, their employees, and their futures. We will continue to support them now and as we all look to recovery and our new normal. We are pleased that this new program will provide significant and immediate relief for many.”
Vicente’s comments were echoed by fellow councillor Michael Palleschi, who said that although this crisis has been incredibly challenging for so many in the community, the city has also seen resilience, kindness, and community spirit.
“While some have been struggling, others who are able have risen to the challenge to pivot their businesses to support the crisis and to donate food and money,” said Palleschi. “We will continue to support our community as best we can, and I know you will continue to support each other, and we will get through this.”