The federal government is giving $600 million to help small- and medium-sized businesses deal with possible lockdowns amid a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Radio-Canada has learned.
The funding — aimed at sectors including tourism, manufacturing and technology — will be added to the $962 million already invested in the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. The announcement will be made Friday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
About $456 million of the new money will be made available to help businesses struggling to bridge their finances through another lockdown. It will be distributed through regional development agencies.
Another $144 million will help provide capital and technical support to rural businesses and communities through the offices of Community Futures Canada, which provides small business services to rural communities.
Infection rates are rising in hot spots across the country, raising concerns of government-ordered shutdowns similar to those seen in the spring.
More lockdowns could be fatal for a very large number of businesses, says Jasmin Guénette, vice-president of national affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
“This money will help several entrepreneurs to get through the crisis, but we have to make sure that these sums are available quickly,” Guénette told CBC News.
The CFIB estimates that 160,000 or 14 per cent of small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada are at risk of closing their doors for good due to COVID-19. The tourism, hotel and catering sectors are particularly threatened.
Several federal measures need a “new coat of paint,” said Guénette.
For example, the CFIB is calling for the commercial rent assistance program, which expired on Wednesday, to be renewed and made more accessible to small businesses.
The CFIB also wants to know more about the extension of the wage subsidy program for businesses into next summer, as was promised in the Trudeau government’s speech from the throne.
The minister of economic development indicated Thursday the government was preparing to provide more help.
“Entrepreneurs in Montreal, all across Quebec, worked really hard to get through the first wave, then what we want to say to them today is: There is hope, we’ll help you get through the second wave,” Mélanie Joly said in Ottawa, when asked about what help the government will provide during a second wave.
Joly said she recognizes that the current situation is very difficult.
“We know we have to do more and we will do more,” she said.