The repayment deadline for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan and the COVID-19 Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) has been extended to Dec. 31, 2023, Minister of Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development Mary Ng announced on Wednesday (Jan. 12).
The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) immediately took to Twitter to applaud the news.
“This is a positive step forward in supporting travel and tourism businesses,” ACTA wrote. “We continue advocating for loan forgiveness as a critical need for travel business survival.”
Speaking at a press conference, Minister Ng said “the best thing for our economy is to support our workers and businesses through this pandemic.”
The loan repayment deadlines were extended in recognition of the challenges that businesses are facing with renewed lockdowns, Minister Ng said.
“We’ve heard from businesses that they’re looking for this flexibility,” she said. “This additional year will help businesses get that flexibility and continue to work together throughout this pandemic, until the end of this pandemic.”
The CEBA program was open for applications from April 9, 2020, to June 30, 2021. It has, to date, provided more than $49 billion in liquidity to over 898,000 Canadian businesses, the government says.
Repayment on or before the new deadline of December 31, 2023, will result in loan forgiveness of up to a third of the value of the loans (meaning up to $20,000), the Government of Canada said in a news release.
Outstanding loans would subsequently convert to two-year term loans with interest of five per cent per annum commencing on Jan. 1, 2024, with the loans fully due by Dec. 31, 2025.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also addressing media on Wednesday, added his remarks on supporting businesses.
“We will continue to be there, to have people’s backs, with as much as it takes, with as long as it takes, until we get through this pandemic,” he said.
Relief proposal for independent agents
In the travel sector, however, not all supports are created equally as independent travel advisors have routinely fallen through the cracks in terms of accessing government funds.
In response, ACTA, with support from the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) and Canadian Travel Agents for Change, has submitted an independent travel agent relief proposal to federal officials.
As reported on Jan. 6, the proposal, called the “Independent Travel Agent Relief Program” (ITARP), aims to create equity between independent travel agents and other travel and tourism small businesses.
ACTA’s top priority remains ensuring as much financial support as possible will be available for travel agencies, travel agents and independent travel agents,” said Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, last week.
The ITARP proposal is “now in the hands of senior government officials,” ACTA said at the time as it meets with senior officials at the Ministry of Tourism this week.
ACTA also continues to seek clarity on the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB), which provides $300 per week ($270 after taxes withheld) for each 1-week period applied for.
Currently, benefits are eligible in most of Canada for Period 9 (Dec. 19 – 25) and Period 10 (Dec. 26 – Jan. 1). Additional eligibility periods are expected.
ACTA advises all applicants, including furloughed travel agency employees and independent travel agents, to carefully review the eligibility checklist to determine whether they are eligible.
“Despite outreach by ACTA, the federal government has so far not confirmed whether independent travel agents, as a specific industry, are eligible,” said Paradis last week. “Therefore, at this time, ACTA is unable to provide further guidance or interpretation, however we are pressing for clarity on this.”