New emergency rent subsidy comes just in time for many struggling businesses in Greater Victoria

WatchWATCH: Some Island businesses opt to close amid new COVID-19 restrictions

While many businesses in Greater Victoria are open for business and thriving, many are hanging on by a thread.

Cathy Scott is the owner of Departures Travel, Victoria’s oldest travel agency.

“From the beginning, it was just shocking. We went from absolutely our biggest year ever to our business gone overnight,” Scott said.

And after the latest round of public health orders, many cash-strapped businesses had no choice but to shut down including the Prince of Whales whale watching company.

Company controller, Ian MacPhee, said the business is closing its doors for the first time in its 27 year history.

“We’ll be shut, we envision, until February at this point in time. That’s due to a complete lack of business,” he said.

As of Monday, qualifying businesses, charities and non-profits can apply for rent and mortgage support with the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy.

Jeff Bray, the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy program will allow businesses to stay open, and employ their staff.

“They are absolutely vital to the survival of the small and medium-sized businesses in the region, not just downtown,” he said.

Ottawa’s last rent subsidy program left it to the landlord to apply, with little uptake in the program.

This new program puts the money directly in the business owner’s bank account, as it subsidizes a percentage of expenses on a sliding scale.

A revenue drop of 70 per cent or more gets a maximum base subsidy of 65 per cent.  Then it starts to decline as a 50 per cent revenue drop only gets a 40 per cent rent subsidy.

Both Scott and MacPhee feel the programs will make a difference for them.

“I’m at negative revenue and foresee that being until mid-next year on the optimistic side. So, it’s really necessary,” Scott said.

MacPhee agreed.

“They are the difference between night and day for us. they are still not going to make us solvent by any means. But at least the doors won’t get locked,” he said.

The new rent subsidy is available retroactive from Sept. 27 until June 2021.

WATCH: Some Island businesses opt to close amid new COVID-19 restrictions

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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