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

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of North Island conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Braden Holtby’s new mask designed in collaboration with Luke Marston and David Gunnarsson. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
QUINN’S QUIPS: Art is more than simple expression in First Nations culture

Indigenous artwork has a connection to its people, and vice versa

The Rogers Creek Trail main trailhead is located on the Redford Extension in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Hiker rescued after cold few hours in the bush outside Port Alberni

Alberni Valley Rescue Squad said they receive frequent calls for people lost on this trail

Helma Swinkels, left, from Bibi J’s is all smiles as she makes her first donation under the new business name to Ellen Frood from Alberni Community and Women’s Services (ACAWS). In 18 sales days, Swinkels was able to donate $3,000 to the transition house. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Bibi J’s in Port Alberni makes first donation to non-profit

Alberni Women and Community Services to benefit

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

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

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Most Read