Ottawa spending another $600M to help businesses survive lockdowns

The federal government is giving $600 million to help small- and medium-sized businesses deal with possible lockdowns during a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New funding will augment $962M fund providing help to small- and medium-sized enterprises

Businesses are facing the prospect of more lockdowns and economic hardship as Infection rates rise in hot spots across the country. (Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press)

The federal government is giving $600 million to help small- and medium-sized businesses deal with possible lockdowns during a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Radio-Canada has learned.

The funding — aimed at such sectors as tourism, manufacturing and technology — will be added to the $962 million already invested in the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. The announcement, first reported by Radio-Canada, was made earlier today by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. CBC News carried the announcement live. 

About $456 million of the new money will be made available to help businesses struggling to bridge their finances through another lockdown. It will be distributed through regional development agencies.

Another $144 million will help provide capital and technical support to rural businesses and communities through the offices of Community Futures Canada, which provides small business services to rural communities. 

Infection rates are rising in hotspots across the country, raising the prospect of renewed government-ordered shutdowns similar to those seen in the spring.

More lockdowns could be fatal for a very large number of businesses, said Jasmin Guénette, vice-president of national affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

"This money will help several entrepreneurs to get through the crisis, but we have to make sure that these sums are available quickly," Guénette told CBC News.

The CFIB estimates that 14 per cent of small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada — roughly 160,000 — are at risk of closing their doors for good due to COVID-19. The tourism, hotel and catering sectors are particularly threatened.

Several federal measures need a "new coat of paint," said Guénette.

The CFIB is calling for the commercial rent assistance program, which expired on Wednesday, to be renewed and made more accessible to small businesses.

The CFIB also wants to know more about the extension of the wage subsidy program for businesses into next summer, which was promised in the Trudeau government's speech from the throne.

The minister of economic development indicated Thursday the government is preparing to provide more help. 

"Entrepreneurs in Montreal, all across Quebec, worked really hard to get through the first wave ... what we want to say to them today is, there is hope. We'll help you get through the second wave," Mélanie Joly said in Ottawa.

"We know we have to do more and we will do more."


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