People carry take-out food in Toronto’s Chinatown, on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

People carry take-out food in Toronto’s Chinatown, on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Hardest hit businesses call for extension of federal wage, rent subsidies

Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses calls for subsidies to continue

OTTAWA — Canadian businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic are calling on the federal government to extend emergency relief programs beyond the current deadline of June 5.

The Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses is calling for the federal wage subsidy and the federal rent subsidy programs to be continued until the end of the year.

The coalition, which represents hotel, tourism, arts, culture and hospitality industries, is backing up its call with the results of a survey it conducted among its members earlier this month.

Almost 6,000 businesses responded to the survey and fully 60 per cent of them said they’ll go under without sustained access to federal support programs.

Only 14 per cent said they have access to sufficient financing from regular sources to survive.

And just 12 per cent said they have sufficient internal resources to stay afloat.

“Our businesses were the first hit by the pandemic, the hardest hit by the closures and will be the last to recover,” Beth Potter, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said in a statement issued by the coalition.

“With extended support, we can thrive and survive. Without it, Canada’s tourism, culture and hospitality industries will be devastated for a generation.

The coalition says its member businesses employed more than two million Canadians before the pandemic hit a year ago. They are primarily small- and medium-sized businesses whose employees are predominantly young, female, Indigenous and new Canadians — the populations hardest hit by the pandemic.

Susie Grynol, president of the Hotel Association of Canada, said the wage and rent subsidies are “a lifeline” for businesses whose financial recovery has been slowed by continuing public health measures, including ongoing bans on mass gatherings.

Continuation of the programs “would be the difference between a vibrant tourism and cultural industry in Canada and the loss of these critical regional employers and a far slower return to full employment,” Grynol said in the statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.

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