Rent relief on the way for B.C. small businesses

THOUSANDS of small businesses in British Columbia will see their monthly rent reduced by at least 75%, thanks to the new federal-provincial Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (CECRA).

“While many small businesses have closed their doors to help keep people safe and healthy, this has not stopped the bills from coming in,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “British Columbia is pleased to partner with the federal government on the CECRA, a welcome next step that will help thousands of commercial property owners and tenants in British Columbia.”

Launching in mid-May 2020, the CECRA will see B.C. small businesses receive a total of over $300 million in federal-provincial relief, with B.C. contributing an estimated $80 million.

The 75% reduction in monthly rent for small businesses affected by COVID-19 will be achieved by providing forgivable loans to cover 50% of the rent payments for eligible small business tenants for April, May and June.

The loans will be forgiven if the landlord reduces the tenant’s monthly rent by at least 75%. The commercial tenant would be responsible for covering 25%, the property owner 25%, while the federal and provincial governments share the remaining 50%.

“This program is not just about providing relief for people today, it’s also about planning for our future and making sure that businesses and local economies are ready to be part of B.C.’s economic recovery,” James added. “We look forward to working with the federal government on the details of this program, as well as future opportunities to keep all B.C. businesses and communities resilient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The CECRA will be administered by the federal government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

In addition to commercial rent relief, the B.C. government is offering significant support to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including tax reductions, delays and deferrals.

Quick Facts:

* The Province has reduced most commercial property taxes by an average of 25%, providing up to $700 million in relief. To give commercial landlords and businesses more time to pay their reduced property taxes, late payment penalties for commercial properties (classes 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) have been waived until Oct. 1, 2020.

* Businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt.

* Payments for provincial sales tax, hotel tax, carbon tax, motor fuel tax and tobacco tax are also deferred.

* BC Hydro rates have been reduced by 1%. Residential and commercial customers have the option to defer bill payments or arrange flexible payment plans with no penalty.

* ICBC customers on a monthly payment plan who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 may defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty: