BIA stats show COVID-19 program leaving small business owners behind
TORONTO — Small business owners are losing sleep over lockout day Saturday as sobering statistics show that nearly two-thirds of commercial tenants reached by a Toronto survey didn’t make May rent and many say the federally led program won’t help them. NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath and Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns joined local small business owners Friday to call for an immediate moratorium on commercial evictions and broad rent relief from the province.
For Ginger Robertson, owner of The Edmund Burke and Off The Hook, government help has been too little, too late. Robertson is just barely hanging on by a thread with a federal loan she’s not sure she’ll be able to pay back, and she’s worried about rent, since her landlord won’t opt in to the federally led program.
Nathan Hynes, owner of The Auld Spot, says his landlord has been accommodating and is open to working with him, but support isn’t available yet through the federally led program, and the details remain murky.
“Small business owners like Ginger and Nathan never should have been left without a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling to stay afloat,” said Horwath. “It’s clear the federally led commercial rent program is leaving too many people behind, and it’s time for the province to step up.”
Valerie Mah, VP Chinese Chamber of Commerce East Toronto, can attest to just how many small business owners are worried about making rent, as can Philip Kocev, Board Treasurer, Broadview Danforth BIA. Kocev led a recent survey coordinated by the Broadview Danforth BIA and Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, which made some alarming findings:
- 63 per cent of businesses could not make all of May’s rent (50 per cent did not pay all of April’s rent, per a previous survey)
- 34.7 per cent of businesses who did not pay all of May’s rent indicate their landlord did not make accommodations
- 74.4 per cent of businesses feel they will not make all of June’s rent
- 60 per cent of businesses think their landlord will not apply for the CECRA program
- 43.9 per cent of businesses are concerned about being locked-out
“Numbers don’t lie, and these sobering statistics just confirm what I’m hearing every day from small business owners in the Danforth,” said Tabuns. “If we want to ensure Ontario has a full and speedy economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t afford to let small businesses go under — we need to help them stay afloat now.”
The NDP has proposed a plan to Save Main Street, which includes a commercial rent subsidy of 75 per cent, of up to $10,000, for three months.
“We need to urgently get rent support directly into the hands of small business owners,” said Horwath, “and we need to stop evictions immediately, before more lockouts happen tomorrow.”