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The federal government’s new rent relief program will cap the amount a business can claim, but will allow more businesses who lost revenue due to the pandemic to get help.

The revamped program, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, is meant to correct the problems of its predecessor, which required businesses to meet a strict set of requirements to qualify: A minimum loss of 70 per cent of revenue compared to pre-pandemic levels; annual revenues under $20-million and gross rent under $50,000 per month.

Now, a business can claim a maximum amount of $75,000 of eligible expenses per location but is subject to an overall cap of $300,000 across all locations.

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A maximum of 65 per cent of the eligible expenses claimed will be subsidized if the business has lost at least 70 per cent of its revenues. If the business loses less than 70 per cent of its revenues, the amount of federal help decreases in proportion. An additional 25 per cent in subsidies is allotted if the government mandates the temporary closure of a business.

Businesses can apply to the new rent subsidy program “as long as they have eligible costs, such as rent and mortgage interest payments,” Katherine Cuplinskas, press secretary for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in an e-mailed statement. "Eligible costs would be capped at the first $75,000 per location and subject to an overall cap of $300,000 across all locations, to be shared among affiliated entities,” she said.

The subsidy cap, in essence, does away with some of the more rigid requirements of the first program and opens it up to businesses that pull in more than $20-million in annual revenue and pay more than $50,000 in gross rent per month.

When Ottawa announced the new program last Friday, it made it clear that tenants would be allowed to apply for the help instead of relying on their landlords to do so on their behalf. Businesses had said they were at the mercy of their landlords and many were either evicted, forced to shut down or filed for bankruptcy protection.

With COVID-19 cases spiking in Quebec and Ontario, the provinces have reinstated closures on indoor restaurants, gyms, cinemas and casinos in the regions with the highest numbers.

The new rent relief program starts this month and will be in place until June of next year, though the requirements and benefits could change after December. Details of CERS are expected to soon be announced.

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