May 15th, 2020

Small businesses are falling through federal rent support gaps and need provincial help now

HAMILTON — Local small businesses are slipping through the cracks in the federal government’s rent support program and need direct financial support from the province if they are going to survive, says NDP MPP for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Paul Miller.

“I keep hearing the same messages from small businesses across Hamilton,” said Miller. “This federal program is too complicated, only businesses that have lost 70 per cent of their income are eligible, and maybe most importantly, it requires landlords to decide to apply, and voluntarily lose 25 per cent of their income. A lot of small businesses have landlords who won’t work with them, and they are finding themselves in an impossible position.”

This is exactly what Brian Sloat, owner of Hamilton small business Expressions in Wood, is facing.

“I’ve had my small business for 19 years – it’s my livelihood and I love being able to put beautiful, Ontario-made, solid wood furniture in people’s homes,” said Sloat. “After 19 years in the same mall, and 4 years with our current landlord, they have decided not to apply to the federal commercial rent program.

“Now I – along with the other 11 small businesses in the Stoney Creek Décor Centre – am being told to come up with all of the rent or be evicted. They are putting all of our businesses at risk, and on top of all of that, they are also harassing us with legal action. This is a shame.”

Sadly, what Brian and the small businesses in the Stoney Creek Décor Centre are experiencing is not unique. It is happening across Hamilton and across the province.

“We’re seeing small businesses like Brian’s – businesses that are the backbone of our communities, and our economy – falling through the cracks because their landlords don’t want to volunteer to lose income,” added Miller. “This just isn’t right. I am asking First Urban, the landlords at the Stoney Creek Décor Centre, to please work with their tenants and apply for federal support, so that we can keep Brian’s business and all the other businesses in this mall afloat.

“These uncooperative landlords have to understand that we are all in this together and we will come out of this eventually. Threatening legal action and evicting good tenants because of temporary financial setbacks during the state of emergency, is bad for the local business community, bad for the local economy and it won’t help anyone in the long run.

“But, the only way to make sure more small businesses in Ontario don’t find themselves in this situation is for the province to step up and provide direct financial assistance to commercial tenants so they can pay their rent.”

In order to avoid losing thousands of small and medium-sized businesses like Brian’s, the Ontario NDP has proposed a 75 per cent provincial rent subsidy paid directly to tenants that would support businesses that don’t qualify for federal assistance and landlords that won’t participate.