Bill C-9, the latest COVID-19 aid bill, passed in the Senate this week, extending the federal wage subsidy and introducing a new commercial rent subsidy program, as concerns grow for businesses facing a new round of shutdowns amid a second wave of the pandemic.

The legislation was fast-tracked through the House of Commons the first week of November and received royal assent Thursday after it was adopted at third reading in the Senate.

Here is what that means for Canadians:

ADDRESSING THE GAPS IN RENT SUBSIDIES FOR BUSINESSES

The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) will provide new rent and mortgage interest support to qualifying tenants and property owners until June 2021.

The new CERS covers up to 65 percent of eligible expenses for businesses, charities, and non-profits that have been impacted by the pandemic. This includes rent, property taxes, insurance, and interest on mortgages for businesses until December 19.

CERS replaces the previous Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, one that faced harsh criticism from business owners because it required commercial property owners to apply for the loans rather than businesses themselves.

The new legislation provides funds directly to renters and property owners, regardless of their landlord’s participation.

However, a provision in Bill C-9 that would require business owners to pay their rent before receiving the funding has already attracted criticism from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The industry group notes that some business owners would be automatically excluded because of cash flow challenges they are already facing.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said last week that the feds will table a new bill to address the issue once Bill C-9 is passed.

NEW LOCKDOWN SUPPORTS

The new Lockdown Support will provide an additional funds to organizations that are subject to a lockdown and must shut their doors or significantly restrict their business under public health order (including orders made by a municipality or regional health authority under one of those laws).

Businesses forced to close their doors will be eligible for a 25-per-cent top-up. Claims can be made retroactively to September 27, 2020.

Combined with CERS, this will mean that hard-hit businesses subject to a lockdown could receive rent support of up to 90 per cent.

EMERGENCY WAGE SUBSIDY EXTENDED

Bill C-9 also sees the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) until June 2021, keeping the current subsidy rate maximum at 65 per cent of eligible wages until December 19, 2020.

Under the previous wage subsidy program, eligible employers were subject to a 30 percent revenue decline measurement, allowing them a payroll subsidy of 75 per cent.

Under the new legislation, any business with a revenue decline will be eligible. The subsidy will be proportional to the revenue drop, to a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible wages.