Small businesses in Nova Scotia are bracing for Jan. 18, the date Canadian Emergency Business Account loan repayments come due.
The federal money was given to small businesses and not-for-profits in April 2020 to help lessen the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown. The money has to be repaid by Jan. 18 in order to receive loan forgiveness of up to $20,000.
Duncan Robertson, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in Nova Scotia, told CBC’s Information Morning Halifax this week that four in 10 businesses in Nova Scotia will be able to pay back the loan, a quarter will have to borrow money to get the loan forgiveness, two in 10 won’t be able to make the deadline and the rest don’t know what will happen.
“If they do miss that January deadline, they will go from having $40,000 debt on Jan. 18 to $60,000 debt,” Robertson said.
“They’ll have to pay that five per cent interest and then they’ll have until Dec. 31, 2026 to fully repay that CEBA loan.”
Robertson said the federation is concerned for the more than 16,000 small Nova Scotia businesses that took the loan and were counting on the forgivable portion. He said they’re hoping the federal government will extend the forgivable loan by a year so businesses have time to catch up.
“When they took that loan, we weren’t really sure what the economic realities would be and now many are faced with high costs and rising interest rates, so we’re asking government to take that into account … we found that would benefit around 95 per cent of businesses that took that loan,” said Robertson.
‘Bad time for a lot of small businesses’
The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia said half of the establishments are either just breaking even or operating at a loss.
“With increased expenses across the board and high debt loads, many businesses will not be able to pay back their CEBA loans by the determined deadline,” the restaurant association said in a statement. “We urge the Federal Government to extend the repayment deadline as restaurants continue to recover from closures during the pandemic and navigate challenges in the industry.”
Brendan Doherty, the owner of Edible Matters and The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse, said the loan repayments are coming at “a terrible time for small businesses.” He said the loans were “a lifeline that kept a lot of businesses in business the last two years.”
He said he would like to see an extension given with the same terms. He said small businesses need a few more years to repay the loan.
“We need more time and just going to banks and signing on for personal loans for $60,000 just really isn’t an option for a lot of operators heading into such a slow time of year,” Doherty said.
“As an operator of a restaurant, we’re seeing the higher food costs, the higher cost of living, etc. And … we would really hope to call on the provincial, federal, municipal governments to help the small businesses specifically.”
‘Perfect storm of challenges’
Matt Boyle, owner and operator of Dear Friend Bar and The Clever Barkeep in Dartmouth, said he knows of a lot of places that are struggling to keep afloat right now.
He said it is especially true in Halifax “where cost of living is already high and there’s thin profit margins operating restaurants already and increased labour costs, increased cost of goods. I think the repayment schedule can further strain the already delicate financial situation for these businesses.”
Boyle said no one expects a handout, but the timing of the repayment should change. He’d like to see an extension and an adjustment of the loan terms.
Information Morning – NS8:21CEBA repayment date looms for N.S. small businesses
“As winter approaches and outdoor dining becomes less feasible, restaurants face the perfect storm of challenges,” he said.
Robertson said the public can help support by spending money at small businesses this holiday season. He says $0.66 out of every dollar spent at a small business goes back into the local community.
“It really doesn’t just benefit the businesses trying to stay afloat, it benefits our community as a whole so it’s incredibly important to get out there and shop local,” Robertson said.