Business rent aid program to fall well short of budget, PBO projects

OTTAWA — A federal spending watchdog says a program aiming to providing rent relief to small and medium-sized businesses will cost just under $1 billion this fiscal year.

The report this morning from the parliamentary budget officer says the commercial rental-assistance program will now cost $931 million after it was extended through to August.

The updated spending projections from the parliamentary budget office still put the program on a track to provide less help than the nearly $3 billion the Liberals budgeted.

The program provides forgivable loans that cover half of rent for eligible small businesses, and also requires landlords to waive a further one-quarter of what they’d otherwise be owed.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is warning that too many small businesses still haven’t been able to access the help because it relies on landlords to apply and sets a very high bar for revenue losses to qualify.

The association is asking the government to allow tenants to directly apply for help.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2020.

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