Fiscal update earns tempered praise from small businesses

National association says more help needed against rising costs and lingering COVID fallout

Fiscal update earns tempered praise from small businesses

Tuesday’s fiscal update from the federal government contained several important measures to support hard-hit entrepreneurs, but Canada’s national association for small and medium enterprises says more needs to be done in the face of fresh uncertainty from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In a statement made after the government’s announcement, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) commended its decision to once again extend the window of repayment for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan program.

“CFIB has urged the government to delay repayment for CEBA to the end of 2024, as only 36 per cent of businesses have returned to normal sales and many are struggling with their COVID-related debt,” the association said.

The government has also extended the deadline to apply for the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), though CFIB asked for a forgivable portion to be included in loans made under the program, similar to CEBA loans, to address the debt burdens endured by the hardest-hit businesses.

And while the fiscal update sets out additional dollar commitments for business support programs, CFIB maintained that they do not address problems with wage and rent subsidy programs in Bill C-2. Specifically, it said the proposed rules would effectively shut out 80% of small firms that need additional support from any wage or rent assistance.

“CFIB urges the federal government to lower the threshold for all wage and rent supports and raise the subsidy levels for all businesses to the formula used for the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program,” the association said, while also urging that rules be relaxed to allow new businesses that started after the pandemic’s onset to access all business support programs.

The association also called on the government to find other ways to prevent further increases to business costs by freezing the January 1 hike in CPP contributions or putting in place a 50:50 split between employers and employees for Employment Insurance.

“The pandemic continues to exert immense pressure on small businesses, so CFIB is pleased to see commitments from the federal government to return $200 million in carbon tax revenues to small businesses and farmers, tackle supply chain challenges, refund businesses for air quality retrofits, and accelerate immigration processing,” CFIB said.