The Edmund Burke in Toronto is shown in this undated handout photo. The Edmund Burke in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood is one of many small businesses struggling with mounting bills as September rent comes due. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Ashley Mardus

The Edmund Burke in Toronto is shown in this undated handout photo. The Edmund Burke in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood is one of many small businesses struggling with mounting bills as September rent comes due. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Ashley Mardus

September rent due as small businesses face holes in government support

Some says that government programs have so far stopped short of helping them pay the bills

With rent coming due for another month, Ginger Robertson’s daily walk through Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood is increasingly filled with empty storefronts.

Robertson says that government programs have so far stopped short of helping her pay the bills for two restaurants she co-owns, The Edmund Burke and Off The Hook. While both venues have reopened, they are running at about half capacity with minimal wage subsidies and loans, meaning today’s rent payment will come from savings once again.

“We were closed for three months … we had to pay insurance, rent, hydro, gas. Those things are still being used and we (weren’t) open. How do you expect us to pay for that?” says Robertson.

On Monday, the Liberals announced an extension of the Canada Emergency Business Account until the end of October, as well as plans to expand eligibility. The government did not, however, extend the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program to help small businesses make their monthly payments, although Small Business Minister Mary Ng said she was working on a way to adapt future aid programs.

Robertson says more of these government programs need to expand eligibility or allow appeals processes for those who have been denied help if the government wants small businesses to recover.

Robertson’s second restaurant, which was purchased at the beginning of March, hasn’t qualified for some of the existing government programs because of decisions made by the previous owner. While Robertson has some wage subsidies and a loan, she doesn’t think she’ll be able to take advantage of the emergency loan forgiveness program, due to eligibility requirements. Meanwhile, her landlord for both venues will not apply for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, which ended Aug. 31.

The parliamentary budget watchdog said on Monday that CECRA will cost just under $1 billion this fiscal year. Robertson said more of that money should be paid out to those who need it. She echoed criticisms by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which said last month that the program needs to be replaced with a version that allows tenants to apply for relief directly.

“The general public thinks we are being helped with the announcement of all these measures,” she said, noting that almost $3 billion was budgeted for the program.

Up the road, Lori Parker of Treasure Island Toys said the government’s wage subsidy program has helped “significantly” with managing expenses, but she, too, was unable to qualify for the rent relief program.

With a lack of kids’ birthday parties and uncertainty around the usually busy seasons of back-to-school and Halloween, Parker is hoping that locals and online buyers can see the store through until Christmas.

“Paying rent is one of our largest priorities. We have managed expenses in other ways, as far as tightening our receivables … looking at our hours of in-store operations and keeping costs as low as possible,” said Parker.

Charles Fajgenbaum, owner of nearby shop Fermentations, said he doesn’t have the option to just close up shop and walk away given the terms of his lease, and the long-term nature of his business. As his contingency plans stretch thin, he is feeling more and more pressure to retire, but says he doesn’t want to let down his suppliers and staff.

“The question really becomes: How long do I want to pay everybody else — but not me?” he says.

Eventually, Fajgenbaum’s landlord did apply to the rent relief program and was successful, says Fajgenbaum. But with his full-time staffers scheduled to return this month and rent coming due, he said he can’t continue on working “25-hours a day” forever, all while trying to be a smiling face for beleaguered clients.

“My landlord, his business is renting properties. My business is being a facility for people to make wine or beer. I can’t fault him for wanting to try to run his business as I’m trying the best I can to run mine,” says Fajgenbaum.

“I don’t think anybody is satisfied with where we are (on the rent relief program), but quite frankly, I’m not sure what can or should be done. I run a business, but I also pay taxes and I’m a citizen, and I know there’s not an absolute bottomless pit of money to keep on throwing at situations, hoping that something eventually sticks and works. But on the other hand, some version of keeping the economy running has to be out there.”

READ MORE: Keep businesses going to outlast COVID-19, B.C. government told

Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

The current state of the Royal Hotel. (Photo Contributed by Richard Leeks)
‘No one is willing to step up to take any responsibility’: Royal owners plow on with renovictions

Heat, kitchen appliances, doors, running water and WiFi have been allegedly removed

RDEK reminds public to register for their emergency notification system. File photo.
RDEK reminds residents to register for East Kootenay Evacuation Notification System

Provincial Alert system cannot be used for local emergencies

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
City of Fernie: New orders a challenge, but community is supportive

Mayor Qualizza said that the new public health orders were an opportunity to safeguard the winter season

Sparwood mayor David Wilks was in attendance at the street party to discuss potential changes to Centennial Square.
Wilks reflects on new public health orders

Sparwood Mayor Wilks said that it was important to work towards a normal Christmas in 2020

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

Most Read