Small businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were asked to close in March and only offer curbside pick-up or delivery. In October the Province restricted indoor dining during the COVID-19 resurgence. Their revenue has decreased drastically, but they still have to pay rent.
The federal government announced on October 9th further targeted support to help businesses through the pandemic. You can find further details in the federal government’s news release.
On October 13th the provincial government announced $300 million to help offset fixed costs for local restaurants and other businesses. You can find more information in the province’s news release.
I hope these programs are implemented quickly and are designed to truly meet the challenges business are facing.
The City is also extending its partnership with Ritual to launch Open For Business – a collaboration with Ritual and DoorDash to help local businesses across Toronto increase their commission-free online sales. Toronto businesses can learn more about Open For Business and enroll at ritual.co/toronto. You can also read the City’s news release for more information.
The future of Main Streets depends on provincial legislation to freeze commercial evictions and immediate action by the federal government on rent relief.
I will continue to work with our business community and BIAs for the support they need to survive. If you are a small business owner in Ward 14, please send me your feedback – email me at [email protected].
Small businesses play such an important role in our communities and local economies. Let’s show our support! Check out each BIA to find out what’s open, who’s doing delivery and who has an online store:
- Broadview-Danforth BIA
- Chinatown East
- Danforth Mosaic BIA
- Gerrard India Bazaar BIA
- GreekTown BIA
- Leslieville BIA
- Pape Village BIA
- Riverside BIA
Below you can find details on the work I have been undertaking since the pandemic began in March 2020 to support small businesses.
On March 24th I hosted a conference call with Board members from our Ward 14 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), staff from the City’s Economic Development division, and the Toronto Association of BIAs (TABIA). Out of that meeting came a plan to organize a campaign to lobby all levels of government to help small businesses.
The Broadview-Danforth BIA and TABIA developed this letter. It asks for the support small businesses feel is necessary to survive, and for the support to be ready for when things start getting back to normal. I encouraged our BIAs and their business members to send the letter to the Premier and the Prime Minister. We also continue to push the #KeepTheLightsOn Campaign.
I held media conferences with our MPP, Peter Tabuns, and local business owners to address the need for a commercial eviction ban and rent relief. You can read the media releases and watch the media conferences here:
On April 24th the federal government announce the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small business. You can find further information here:
I have heard from local small business owners and our BIAs that this is not enough. There is concern about not being able to qualify or landlords unwilling to participate. On April 30th MPP Peter Tabuns and I sent a letter to Premier Ford requesting a moratorium on commercial evictions and further rent subsidies for small businesses. Click here to read the letter.
Furthermore, on April 30th City Council passed a motion requesting the provincial and federal governments to amend CECRA and immediately implement a moratorium on commercial evictions. The amendments requested include that businesses with revenue losses greater than 50% (instead of the announced 70%) and who still meet the criteria of rent less than $50,000 per month be eligible. Click here to read the full item (motions 5 and 6).
On May 12th I held another virtual media conference to address the results of a new Toronto wide business survey focused on commercial rent relief and the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses.
The survey was developed by the Broadview-Danforth BIA and 503 small business tenants and 138 landlords participated. The results show that 63% of businesses were not able to pay full rent in May, and 74% feel they won’t be able to pay full rent in June. Many feel that the current CECRA program is not enough.
Click here to read the media release and survey results, and to watch the media conference.
You can also read my article in Beach Metro News about protecting small business. They create our vibrant retail main streets, like the Danforth, Queen East and Gerrard, and they are at the heart of our neighbourhoods. They have said that on top of rent relief, they need a temporary ban on commercial evictions to survive. We’ve made repeated requests for this, but there have been no new updates.
On May 14th I joined Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, our MPP Peter Tabuns and MPP Suze Morrison for another media conference to call on the the provincial government to immediately enact a moratorium on commercial evictions. We are asking you to join us in flooding phone lines, email inboxes and social media channels with one request: #StopCommercialEvictions. You can use these templates to help get the message out.
On June 3rd MPP Peter Tabuns and I sent another letter to Premier Ford asking him to take immediate action and enact a commercial evictions moratorium. Click here to read the letter.
I held another media conference on June 4th to address the need for an immediate moratorium on commercial evictions and more support for small businesses. The Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses opened May 25th and many landlords did not apply.
A survey developed by the Broadview Danforth BIA and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) was circulated to small businesses and landlords in Toronto, Ottawa and Guelph. 61% of businesses who qualify indicated their landlord has not applied for CECRA, and 72% of businesses could not make all of June’s rent. The survey participants included 427 small business tenants and 92 landlords.
Click here to watch the June 4th media conference, read the media release and view the survey results.
I’ve heard from many small business owners and they are struggling. Some have said their landlords do not want to apply for CECRA and expect them to pay full rent. Landlords have little incentive to apply, yet they are the only ones who can apply. This catch 22 can only be broken with a freeze on commercial evictions.
On June 8th, Premier Ford finally announced that the province will bring legislation forward to enact a ban on commercial evictions until August 31st. Sadly, it will not apply to all businesses, but only to businesses experiencing a 70% drop in revenue during the pandemic. Read my full statement.
City of Toronto launches BusinessTO Support Centre to help support Toronto businesses during COVID-19 pandemic
On April 22nd the City of Toronto launched the BusinessTO Support Centre to provide virtual one-on-one support to Toronto businesses during this unprecedented time.
The City’s new BusinessTO Support Centre will be available for all sectors, including not-for-profit, creative/cultural, manufacturing, technology, retail, hospitality, tourism, main street businesses and consulting services.
The centre will help businesses apply for government support programs such as:
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program
- Canada’s Work-Sharing Program
- Canada’s Emergency Business Account Program
In addition to this virtual one-on-one support, the BusinessTO Support Centre will offer a weekly webinar series to provide information about these available government programs and the requirements to apply.
The centre will also inform businesses about how they can support the City’s COVID-19 response and provide general business support and information about other City programs.
The BusinessTO Support Centre is available at https://www.toronto.ca/covid19BusinessTO. Sign up to schedule a conversation with a business advisor by video or phone, and a business advisor will be in contact within 24 hours.