Emergency subsidy will help many business owners, not all, finds CFIB

Poll from national association for independent business reveals mixed reactions, along with challenges to access

Emergency subsidy will help many business owners, not all, finds CFIB

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy has provided welcome and much-needed relief for business owners, particularly as the government increased the magnitude of the measure. But even that has not been enough to lift the burden off every entrepreneur’s shoulders.

In a new survey conducted over the weekend, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has found that business owners are divided on just how helpful the emergency wage subsidy is. While 29% said it will help them avoid laying off more people or recall staff, 37% said it would not help them, and 21% were unsure.

“The federal government took a big step by increasing the wage subsidy to 75 per cent and opening it up to businesses of all sizes and structures,” said CFIB President Dan Kelly. “It will help many, but there are still a lot of businesses in dire need of help that report they will not be able to access it.”

Among those who said the CEWS would be helpful, 44% said it would help them keep some staff that are still on the payroll. Another 35% said they can retain all their staff with support from the subsidy, 29% said they can recall some staff they’d let go, and 9% said the subsidy can help them reverse all layoffs.

Meanwhile, for those who said the subsidy could not help them retain staff, 38% said it was too late as they can’t easily undo the layoffs that have already happened. Another 30% said a six-week wait for the subsidy would be too much for them, while 21% were concerned about not being able to prove they satisfy the 30% revenue drop requirement. An equal number of those respondents (17%) also said they would not qualify based on current conditions or that the wage support would be inadequate to retain jobs.

“Businesses are facing a lot of cost pressures right now. Only 19 per cent remain fully open, down from 21 per cent last week,” said Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB's senior vice-president of national affairs. “Some firms have very tight profit margins which makes it very difficult to continue to operate with a 30 per cent drop in revenues.”

New businesses, seasonal businesses, firms hurt by rising costs, and high-growth firms, she added, believe they’ll face difficulties in proving that they are eligible. The CFIB called for several measures to reassure business owners that they can access the subsidy, including eliminating the 30% test for small and medium-sized firms, creating a different test for new or rapidly growing firms, and reduce the threshold to 15% for March to reflect that major business impacts started to take effect in mid-March.

"The vast majority of small businesses … are worried for their employees and about their ability to ever reopen,” Kelly said. “Right now, we need to quickly put in place the measures that will allow us to preserve our small businesses and keep them connected to their employees so we can recover once the crisis is over."


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