The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) is seeking $3 billion from the Canadian federal government to help support travel agency businesses and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ACTA’s move comes after the United States included travel agencies in a $25 billion-dollar Economic Stabilization Loan for airlines.
Although not yet signed into law yet, the United States Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act – valued at $2 trillion USD – promises to offer some relief for U.S. travel advisors.
Through the aid package, travel agencies in the U.S. will be able to apply for loan programs and self-employed agents will be eligible for unemployment benefits.
ACTA wants a similar deal here in Canada.
“While we are pleased with some of the financial supports announced by the Federal Government, ACTA is asking the Federal Government to support travel agency businesses and Workers in the amount of $3 billion in financial aid to weather the storm,” said Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, in a statement. “ACTA has advised the government that it expects that Canadian travel agencies be treated equally in any sector specific aid packages.”
This month Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a variety of measures to help Canadians with their finances during the COVID-19 crisis.
An amount of $10 billion in financing and credit insurance solutions is available to Canadian businesses through the Business Credit Availability Program.
Funding made available through Business Development of Canada has been extended to other financial institutions listed on the Government’s website.
The CRA is deferring tax payment until August 31st, 2020 to help businesses with cash flow.
There’s immediate relief for small businesses with a 75 per cent wage subsidy (upped from 10 per cent on Friday).
The work-share program has also introduced some temporary special measures to support employers such as accepting businesses who have been in business for only one year rather than two; elimination of the burden of having to provide sales/production figures at the same time; and a recovery plan is no longer required at this time.
ACTA has also lobbied for a reduction in the 30-day service standard wait time.
While this has not been noted on Service Canada’s website to date, ACTA was told on Friday (March 27th) that Service Canada is expecting the service standard to be around 7-10 days but “this is not in writing as yet,” ACTA stated in a release.
“We are very pleased the Government has approved the following so far, but we will continue to lobby for more and to ensure that travel agencies and travel agents are recognized as being an important sector that has been severely impacted by COVID-19 measures,” said Paradis.
Additionally, on Friday, Ottawa introduced the Canada Emergency Business Account, which dictates that banks will offer loans of $40,000 guaranteed by the government to qualifying business.
Loans will be interest free for the first year and if certain conditions are met, the first $10,000 will be forgivable, Trudeau said.
As for workers, any worker that is no longer receiving an income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, including independent travel agents, is eligible for the $2,000 Emergency Relief Fund per month for four months/16 weeks, provided the person has earned at least $5,000 in the last 12 months.
It is retroactive from March 15th and workers should expect to receive this about 10 days after applying. The application portal for applying is expected to launch in early April.
“What ACTA has been advised so far is that employees can apply for the Emergency Relief Fund and then apply for EI when the ERF expires,” said Paradis. “Independent travel agents can apply for the Emergency Relief Fund. In our discussions with the Government about the unique circumstances of travel agencies and travel agents, we have been advised that the 16-week period will be re-assessed as the longer-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.”
Tools to get started
Businesses should check the following sites (note that information is evolving and still being uploaded so keep checking if you don’t find the details you are looking for):
Visit the website for businesses for information about supporting your employees and your business. It is constantly updated as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.
Contact your local financial institution. Since most small businesses have a relationship with their local financial institution already, the government has worked with the financial sector to increase their lending capability to support you at this time. They are a good place to start for help rather than going directly to the BDC.
Download the Canada Business App to find tailored supports to address your needs in the face of COVID-19.
Visit ACTA.ca for COVID-19 important information and tools to help you navigate through the myriad of information.
Letter writing campaign update
Earlier this week, ACTA called on travel agents and agencies to take part in a grassroots letter writing campaign to ask governments for relief and assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ACTA has, so far, already tallied more than 2,000 letters that have been sent to the Prime Minister, the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee Members, MPs, MPPs, and MLAs, the organization states.
ACTA is asking agents to continue the campaign “as it is being noticed!” ACTA says.
“We’d also like to thank all of our member travel agents and agencies across Canada who are taking the initiative to show how invaluable travel agents have been throughout this crisis in a variety of creative tools. This has been helpful in our lobbying efforts,” said Paradis.