Rent subsidy needed to save main-street businesses amid COVID-19: survey

April 22, 2020 By David Nickle, Wage subsidies and small business loans are doing little to help small businesses on Toronto’s main streets — but rent relief would go along way to keeping those businesses running, a survey of more than 500 businesses across the city has found. “It’s the only thing they need,” said Philip Kocev of the Broadview-Danforth BIA, which conducted the
survey.  “Those other pieces are only good for certain businesses ... but that rent relief bailout is the one thing that would really help landlords and tenants.”

The survey of 561 small businesses and 137 landlords painted a stark picture of the financial issues facing small businesses on main streets.

Half of businesses surveyed said that they had not been able to make all of April’s rent, and 72 per cent said they would not make all of May’s.
And 61 per cent said that pressure would mean that they would close down for good in three months — and 76 per cent they would close in five months. Landlords who responded to the survey indicated even starker numbers. Three-quarters — 74 per cent — said they had not received all of April’s rent and 82 per cent believe they won’t receive all of May’s rent from businesses that have been curtailed or shut down. At issue is the provincially mandated closure of most businesses to help stem the spread of COVID-19 through community contacts. That has meant many shops and particularly restaurants have had to close their doors — laying off most or all of their staff and seeing at best a dramatic reduction in their revenues. According to Anathan Hynes, the owner of the Auld Spot pub on Danforth Avenue, both wage subsidy and an interest-free $40,000 loan available to small businesses don’t help. “For the businesses that can’t open, it’s useless,” he said of the 75 per cent wage subsidy. “As far as the loan goes — it’s crazy to offer a small business a loan as a solution when they’ve been mandated to close. Nobody’s going to be able to pay that back in time to get the $10,000 forgiveness.”
The federal small business loan forgives one-quarter of repayment to businesses who are able to repay it by Dec. 31, 2022. In the survey, 38 per cent of respondents said the loan would help, while 45 per cent said it would only help if it were no-strings.

But 84 per cent said that rent relief during their enforced closures would help.

Ginger Robertson, the owner of The Edmund Burke and Off the Hook, said that small main-street businesses like hers are in jeopardy of closure. “People are closing every day — their savings are dwindling,” she said. “We have to pay our rent — it was not negotiable. There’s no protection for small businesses (from eviction) — none. Everything you worked so hard to build can be sold right from under you. It’s not the landlord’s fault either. So we’re asking the government to do the right thing.” Hynes called the shutdown an “existential crisis” for small businesses and main streets. “I think that what’s being set up is that all small business fail — that we’ve been blatantly left to fail,” he said. “That’s my fear.” The business owners spoke at a news conference hosted by Toronto-Danforth Coun. Paula Fletcher and Toronto-Danforth New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns. Tabuns called for the province to offer rent relief, and place a four-month moratorium on evictions similarly to as it’s done for residential tenants unable to make rent. “If we want to have businesses on our main streets across Canada, (Premier Doug Ford) needs to step in with cash and a moratorium,” said Tabuns.

Latest posts

Take action

Sign up for Updates
News and Updates
Upcoming Events