small business ontario

Struggling Toronto businesses release urgent plea for government help

Small businesses in Toronto and throughout Ontario have been struggling for the better part of the past two years, and many have repeatedly called on all levels of government to step up and provide additional assistance to help them get by. 

And while some financial aid is available to struggling businesses, many feel it's not enough, which is why the 355 business members comprising the Broadview Danforth Business Improvement Area in Toronto sent a letter to the province and the federal government this week demanding further action.

"Our members are going through some of the toughest times brought on by the pandemic. The Federal support programs for the hardest hit businesses are appreciated and greatly needed. However, there are businesses that have decided to stay open, offer their services and keep staff employed," reads the letter. 

"These businesses feel that they have been left to fend for themselves as the supports announced seem to solely focus on businesses that have had to close their doors. In many cases, the businesses that have stayed open would have been in a financially better position laying off their staff and closing their doors," it continues.

The first part of the letter, addressed to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Small Business Mary Ng and Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin, outlines the gaps in the recently announced federal measures for businesses.

It mentions how some sectors, such as retail, don't qualify for support programs since they've been allowed to remain open, despite the fact that many are operating at a fraction of their sales compared to previous years.

Other issues mentioned in the letter include the fact that income comparisons and thresholds for qualifying "unfairly ignore" businesses that stayed open or those that opened just before the pandemic, and that staffing shortages and increasing costs are not taken into account.

The BIA says the loan repayment rescheduling also doesn't go far enough to help businesses.

"According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 7 in 10 small business owners have taken on debt due to COVID-19, with the average now reaching almost $170,000 per business," it reads. 

"The extension of the loan repayment deadline is helpful, but it does not address the true problem – most small/medium businesses will not be able to afford to repay the loans for a number of years."

Businesses are therefore asking the feds to reopen the wage subsidy (CEWS) and rent assistance (CECRA) as they were, and to increase the loan forgiveness amount from its current 33 per cent.

The provincial part of the letter, addressed to Premier Doug Ford, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy and Associate Minister of Small Business Nina Tangri, also outlines how some sectors are unfairly not qualifying for the grant program, property tax and energy rebates, such as retail. 

With February rent almost due, the BIA points out the fact that the grant portal is not yet open to businesses, and that there are no set timelines for when businesses will receive their grants. 

The letter goes on to ask the province to allow more businesses to qualify for grants, property tax and energy rebates, open the grant portal immediately for businesses to apply, and provide some clear timelines of when payments will be processed. 

"At this time we are urging you to consider the plight of those whose doors are open, keeping the economy going and people employed," reads the letter.

"We realize that these are also difficult times for the government. We also do not want to unnecessarily contribute to government debt, but we think more should be done to support these suffering businesses."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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