Business groups across Canada are pleading with the federal government to grant them more time to pay back emergency loans offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a new letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, organizations representing hundreds of thousands of small businesses are calling for another year or two to pay back their Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans.
“Many businesses had no choice but to take on this loan due to circumstances beyond their control… With each passing day, entrepreneurs who collectively maintain a very considerable workforce, face increasingly daunting financial pressure,” reads the letter, provided to CTV News. “Ottawa needs to act now to extend the CEBA repayment deadline.”
The federal government created CEBA early in the pandemic as one of a suite of financial aid measures aimed at keeping businesses afloat in the face of forced closures and health restrictions. Offering initially up to $40,000 to small businesses and non-profits who have experienced a loss of revenue due to COVID-19, an expansion was then offered, seeing businesses able to apply to receive up to $60,000 interest-free loans.
Open for applications between April 2020 and June 2021, the loans were approved for 898,271 businesses, totalling $49.2 billion in federal assistance.
In January 2022, in the wake of the Omicron variant surge and new restrictions, the Liberals announced they would be extending the repayment deadline by a year to the end of 2023. This meant that eligible businesses “in good standing” would have until Dec. 31, 2023 to repay and be eligible for debt forgiveness of one-third—up to $20,000—of their loan.
Monday’s letter—signed by more than 250 local chambers of commerce, tourism, and industry groups across Canada—indicates that while the government gave business in crisis a lifeline