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Alberta small businesses desperately seek rent relief

Retailers, hospitality providers and arts groups among those struggling to meet rent obligations, finds survey
Closed sign store cafe shop small business
Photo by Getty Images

Up to 25 per cent of small businesses are struggling to pay their rent during the COVID-19 crisis, warns the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

In Alberta, for example, all “non-essential” businesses were forced to close. Albertans are prohibited from accessing stores that sell clothing, gaming, hobby and toy stores, book stores, and various services.

The result is no customers and no cash flow, but the rent on a storefront still must be paid.

The CFIB released a survey April 5 showing that hospitality is particularly hard hit with 44 per cent saying they cannot meet their rent obligations. Other sectors affected include arts, recreation (40 per cent), and personal services (32 per cent).

The survey also found that only one in five businesses report being fully open during the pandemic; and 42 per cent of business owners are worried about having to close their business permanently.

The CFIB is asking that the provinces move to protect commercial tenants from being evicted during the COVID crisis.

The Alberta government is offering some assistance.

Corporate income tax balances and instalment payments for the first quarter have been deferred to August 31, 2020. Private-sector employers can also defer worker compensation premiums until 2021. For small and medium-sized businesses, the government will also cover 50 per cent of the 2020 premium.

Small business customers of the Alberta Treasury Branches (ATB) can also apply for a payment deferral on loans and lines of credit for up to six months.