Restaurants Canada says a phased approach to CEBA repayments would save thousands of restaurants and other small businesses from declaring bankruptcy.
The association says the Dec. 31, 2023 deadline for Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan reimbursement is approaching quickly and proposes that the federal government implement a 36-month payback extension, with a scale-down model on the forgivable portion.
During the pandemic the federal government launched the CEBA program which gave small businesses and not-for-profits interest-free loans of up to $60,000.
Olivier Bourbeau, vice-president, Federal & Québec Affairs with Restaurants Canada, said without CEBA program, Canada’s loss of 13,000-plus food-service establishments would have been exponentially larger.
“Our sector emerged from the pandemic as one of the hardest hit financially, with many owners being forced to take on significant debt just to keep their doors open. The industry is also struggling with a number of post-pandemic operational challenges like inflation, labour shortages and supply-chain hurdles,” said Bourbeau said in a statement.
Brandon Bouchard, Red Deer Downtown Business Association chair, supported Restaurants Canada’s proposal and said anything that can be done to help the sector is a positive thing.
“Any little bit of help will certainly be appreciated, not just for restaurants themselves, but employees. They stuck around after being locked down over and over. Those people deserve a little bit of credit for sticking with their industry,” said Bouchard who is also the manager of Tribe restaurant and bar.
According to a Restaurants Canada survey, nearly 20 per cent of the restaurants that have yet to reimburse CEBA will not be able to repay it in part or at all. A total of 43 per cent of the food service sector continues to operate at a loss, or just break even, and one in four independent table-service restaurants are not expected to recover from pandemic-incurred debt unless current conditions change.
Key findings on the restaurant sector’s use of CEBA loans showed 83 per cent of table-service restaurant companies and 56 per cent of quick-service restaurant companies received a loan.
Restaurants Canada, which is a national, not-for-profit, member-based trade association, put forward its CEBA repayment proposal in a submission to the federal government ahead of the release of the government’s 2023 budget on March 28.
In addition to the 36-month payback extension, the association recommends a scaled-down model on the forgivable portion of the loan with a five per cent decrease every six months. The quicker loans are repaid, the more businesses would benefit from a larger forgivable portion.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter