MEDIA: Are COVID19 Rent Subsidy Caps Unfair? (Global National News)

Pleased to chat with Global National News about the latest coronavirus rent assistance program, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), and challenges around the caps, in terms of the maximum amount that a business can receive.  In particular, there has been criticism of the $300,000 cap for businesses and other eligible organizations with more than one location.

This is a difficult issue, as it might seem to some as being unfair for larger companies; perhaps, analogous to “penalizing success”.  The reality is that COVID19 has been difficult for everyone, including smaller businesses with limited resources.  There are at least three sides to this challenging issue.

Larger businesses with multiple locations certainly feel the stress of steering a larger ship, with many employees and financial obligations, such as rent.  With more jobs at stake, it is understandable that not being able to make ends meet could have an adverse employment impact on a greater number of people.  The other side of this situation is that larger companies tend to have access to a wider range of financial resources, including established cash reserves, existing financial partners, and, perhaps, potential investors.  There are also other programs available, including those that support wages.

Smaller, standalone businesses that collectively represent the backbone of the Canadian economy can find themselves with fewer resources in financially challenging times, and attracting support from financial institutions is not easy (many, if not most, small business owners know just how difficult this is).  This category of businesses also knows what it is like to be overlooked, as the early days of COVID19 support programs left out various types of small operators (much of which has since been rectified).

The third side of this situation is the taxpayer (in this case, represented by government).  COVID19 has been extremely challenging for so many, be it on an individual, family, employee, business, or wellness level.  It is not feasible to simply open public funding in an unlimited manner; rather, balance is required.  With the objective of keeping as many businesses as possible on some form of “life support” as the pandemic unfolds and begins to move into a more hopeful phase in early to mid-2021 (fingers crossed), balance is important, in order to get to the other side.

The other thing that many companies with multiple locations will be considering is just how many are needed going forward.  COVID19 has changed a lot of behaviors, routines, and workplaces.  Although the situation will not be the same for everyone or every community, locations that built their business based on office traffic or proximity to large workspaces might have to rethink the way forward.  This is an area that requires thoughtful analysis, to make tough decisions and understand the impact on the road ahead.

Thank you for including me in your TV and print stories, Global National News!

Jenifer Bartman
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