Montreal advancing $50K loans to small, medium businesses hard hit by pandemic
Mayor says it's still 'much too early' to know when stores and restaurants will reopen
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the city will advance loans of up to $50,000 to as many as 1,000 businesses hard hit by the pandemic in the next two weeks, while it waits for $40 million promised by the Quebec government.
Businesses will not have to pay back the principal on those loans for the first six months, said Coun. Luc Rabouin, the city's executive committee member in charge of economic development.
In addition, the city will cover interest on those loans for that first six-month period, he said. The interest rate will be set at three per cent.
Rabouin said in addition to other assistance offered by the federal and provincial governments, these loans will help Montreal businesses having trouble covering costs during the crisis, which has shut down all non-essential commerce since late March.
"This initiative will help us provide financial support in the form of liquidity to companies that are having difficulty maintaining, consolidating or relaunching their operations because of COVID-19," he said.
"This assistance is available to any Montreal business that is closed or likely to be closed — as well as those trying to maintain or restart their operations in the context of this crisis."
Too early to say when stores will reopen: Plante
Plante said the emergency assistance program is just one of a series of economic measures that Montreal has taken in this crisis, including deferring property tax payments for home and business owners.
However, it's clear Montreal — the city by far hardest-hit by the pandemic — will face repercussions.
"I don't want services to be affected," said Plante.
Her aim is not to hike taxes and pass the cost onto citizens, she said. Cities are not allowed by law to run deficits, however, so she said Montreal will have to turn to the provincial government for help — help she believes will be forthcoming.
"We are the economic engine of the province," she said.
Plante said the city is well-positioned to restart once the economy gets rolling again, although it is "much too early" to know when stores and restaurants will reopen.
She said with the need to respect physical distancing for months to come, reopening businesses safely will be a challenge.