How Do I Apply For the CECRA For Small Businesses?

A picture of a store opening to denote a business being able to stay open due to their landlord applying for the CECRA program to help reduce their rent.

How do I apply for the CECRA for small businesses? What is the CECRA program? The Canadian government just announced more emergency measures for small businesses to help weather Covid-19. However, this time the focus is on helping commercial landlords. Let’s explain this new program.

How Do I Apply For the CECRA – What is it?

CECRA stands for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses. The goal of the program is to provide rental relief for small businesses. The government achieves this by providing forgivable loans to commercial landlords as an incentive to lower rents for their tenants.

How Do I Apply For The CECRA – How Does it Work?

First, the commercial landlord goes into an agreement with their tenant(s) to reduce their rent to 25% of normal rate for three months (April 2020 , May 2020, June 2020). The landlord will then take a loan from the Government of Canada to cover the other 75% for this time frame. If the landlord and tenant meet the program’s criteria, the landlord can have 2/3 of his/her loan forgiven. What does this mean in layman’s terms?

Suppose a landlord had a tenant who was paying $20,000 in rent each month. If the landlord wanted to be part of this program, they would go into an agreement to reduce their rent by 75% for April, May and June. This means the tenant would only pay $5000 per month for these three months. The landlord would then take a loan for $15000 per month for the three months from the government or $45000 in total. The landlord then can potentially have $10000 per month of the loan forgiven or $30000.

So what does this mean? it means that landlord will receive 75% of the required rent for these 3 months instead of 100%. The tenant will only pay 25% of their rent for same period. This means the landlord will incur a 25% loss in rent this time frame. But this amount is covered by the loan in which they pay back. Why would landlords choose to do this?

What is the Incentive for Landlords?

The government is banking on 3 reasons that landlords will apply for the programs. Here is a summary of the reasons from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation whom the government is using to administer this program.

  1. There is an incentive of getting a government loan where potentially 2/3 of it could be forgiven.
  2. The landlord is guaranteed at least 50% of your rent for the months of April, May, and June. This is huge considering the alternative could be receiving NOTHING in rent if businesses can’t afford to pay.
  3. Finally, eviction and finding new tenants can be an expensive and time consuming process that could be very costly. So, perhaps landlords can prevent this altogether.

How Can I Apply For The CECRA Program?

You will need to go to the CMHC website. However, the application portal for this program will not be open until Monday May 25, 2020 at 8:00 am eastern time. And then the government will take a staggered approach for applying due to the expected high volume. Here’s the schedule from the the CMHC website below:

NOTE: Once registered, the portal will be available 24/7 for applicants to input data and upload documents.

DayWho should register?
MondayProperty owners who are located in Atlantic Canada, BC, Alberta and Quebec, with up to 10 tenants who are eligible for the program
TuesdayProperty owners who are located in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Territories, with up to 10 tenants who are eligible for the program
WednesdayAll other property owners in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Territories
ThursdayAll other property owners in Atlantic Canada, BC, Alberta and Quebec
FridayAll

What Information Will I Need to Apply For the CECRA Program?

There are a few pieces of information you will need to give to apply for the program. Here are a list below from the the CMHC website:

Attestations

  • Tenant or Sub-tenant’s Attestation (sample PDF):
    Property owners must have each of their eligible commercial small business tenants and/or subtenants sign an attestation. The Tenants are responsible for attesting to their eligibility with the program requirements. 
  • Property Owner’s Attestation (sample PDF):
    Property owners must sign an attestation. This confirms the information relating to the property owner and the property provided in the application is correct. And it attest to their eligibility with the program requirements.

Agreements

  • Rent Reduction Agreement (sample PDF): All application documents will be accessible on May 25, 2020.
    Property owners must enter into a legally binding rent reduction agreement with each impacted tenant. And confirm the rent reduction in accordance with the program terms and conditions.  This agreement is conditional upon final approval of the application for CECRA for small businesses.
  • Forgivable Loan Agreement (sample PDF):
    Property owners must agree to the terms and conditions in the application and outlined in the forgivable loan agreement.

You’ll also need to provide the following information:

Property owner information

  • Property information includes: property address, property type, property tax statement, latest rent roll for each property and the number of commercial units
  • Applicant information includes: banking information, property owner contact information, co-ownership information and contact details for co-owners

Tenant information

  • Tenant information includes: tenant contact information, registered business name, lease area and the monthly gross rent for the period of April, May and June 2020

Conclusion

The CECRA program is a very detailed program. If you think you might want to apply, please go to the CMHC website and read it carefully. However, the amount of information provided could be overwhelming. Hopefully this summary helps you in understanding the program better. Which is important because this is a big decision to make and the stakes are high. Stay safe everyone.

What can I do if I Can’t Pay My Bills Because of Coronavirus?

Picture showing dilemma of how can I pay for bills during coronavirus

“I can’t pay my bills because I was laid off because of Coronavirus.” Sound familiar? This is a scary scenario but unfortunately this is a reality for many today amid this pandemic. This reality is apparent when we see that in just one week in Canada, over 1 million applied for EI or other emergency support benefits. If you find yourself in that scenario, what can you do to help yourself and your family?

Communication – Talk to Your Bank or Utilities providers

Communication seems overly simple but this is vital especially when everything is so fluid right now and it is hard to know what information is correct. So, whoever you pay bills to, you need to contact them and let them know your situation and see what options you have to lighten your bills because of your changing job situation, due to the coronavirus. There might be options to help. Here are some things you can do if you have bills to pay in these five main areas.

Mortgage Payments

A few days ago, the countries six largest banks announced a plan for deferral of mortgage payments to up to six months. Individuals and business owners should contact their bank to discuss available options. Each deferral request will be reviewed by a case by case basis.

Rental payments

At the moment there does not appear to be a program to address help for rentals. Some areas like Ontario are encouraging landlords not to evict anyone during this time. However, the best thing to do is to contact your landlord to see if there are any options to help provide some financial relief. You can also look into the government’s Covid-19 relief package to see if you qualify for any of the relief. Also, you can look into any provincial relief packages that your province might provide to help give you money to pay for your rent. (Updated March 26/20 – B.C. now has provided help of up to $500/month to help renters pay the rent on their homes.)

Car Payments

Contact your financial institution to see if there are options regarding paying the loan or lease of your vehicle due to financial hardship. For example here’s that information from the RBC website concerning this:

Client relief: The events surrounding COVID-19 are truly unprecedented and disrupting the daily lives of Canadians. RBC has put in place financial relief programs for personal and business clients who have experienced financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. To help clients with immediate relief, some of these programs are available by self-serve, including skip a mortgage payment, an auto-loan payment, and personal loan payment. These options will provide you with direct relief for one month. Please know that we will continue to work with you to provide further financial assistance, including further payment relief (for example, up to 6 months on mortgages), should you need our help.

Utility Payments Such as Power, Phone, TV, and Internet

It is best to contact your provider to see what options you have due to financial hardship. These companies and utility providers are well aware that many people are in this scenario and they are looking to assist. For example, here’s an excerpt from Shaw’s website:

We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and we know that the threat posed by the spread of the virus will result in some Shaw customers facing unexpected financial challenges. We also know that particularly in times like these, we rely on being connected – to our family, our friends, or our workplace – or keeping our families informed and entertained. If you are having any concerns about paying your monthly Shaw internet bill due to hardship resulting from the COVID-19 situation, we will work with you to find a flexible payment arrangement that considers your financial and connectivity needs.

Credit Card Payments

It is best to contact your financial institution and let them know of your situation. Communication again is key! Fortunately, many banks and financial institutions are reaching out to clients and letting them know their options to help lighten the financial burden. For example, here’s an email I received from Capital one:

We understand that COVID-19 is having an impact on our customers’ lives. For those who are experiencing financial distress, we’re working on options to provide support through this difficult time. As soon as we can, we will make more information on these options available.

For additional information about our response to the COVID-19 situation, please visit our webpage. We’ll continue to update it with relevant information.

Conclusion

Not being able to pay your bills during the Coronavirus pandemic is a horrible prospect. We are in uncharted waters and do not know how long this will go. As result, it’s hard to make decisions – especially financial ones. The best thing we can do is to get as much information as possible on our options for potential relief by directly communicating to the companies we owe money to.

There’s an old saying that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. This is true because the more information we get from our creditors, the greater chance of some sort of financial relief. So look at your bills one at a time and see if there is a chance of some sort of relief. The result might be a little less stress in these already very stressful times. Take care and be safe.