Government rent relief for commercial tenants will continue into the middle of 2021 under the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (“CERS”) program. CERS, which began accepting applications on November 23, 2020, succeeded the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (“CECRA”) in order to provide continued relief to commercial tenants (and property owners) who have suffered revenue declines as a result of COVID-19.
What is CERS?
The CERS program is designed to provide rent and other relief to businesses, non-profits and charities that have experienced revenue declines during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended to improve upon the CECRA program, which relied on landlords to apply for relief rather than allowing tenants to directly apply for relief. Under CERS, businesses and organizations can apply for relief in relation to any eligible expenses. CERS will take retroactive effect to September 21, 2020, and will continue through to June 2021. Applicants will file claims for specific claim periods, the first being the period from September 27, 2020 to October 24, 2020, and will have 180 days following each claim period to file their claim.
CERS is not limited to providing relief to tenants. It also provides relief for property owners that have experienced revenue declines as a result of COVID-19. Eligible expenses for property owners include interest on mortgages and insurance payments.
Whereas the CECRA program was administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CERS will be administered by the Canada Revenue Agency.
In order to qualify for CERS, a business or organization must have experienced a revenue decline as a result of COVID-19 during the applicable claim period. The subsidy is comprised of two components: the base subsidy and lockdown support top-up.
Base Subsidy Amount
The base subsidy amount is determined by comparing the entity’s monthly revenues year-over-year. The following chart demonstrates how the base subsidy amount is calculated:
Base Subsidy Rate
70% and over
50% to 69%
40% + (revenue drop – 50%) x 1.25
1% to 49%
Revenue drop x 0.8
The base subsidy amount is capped for each claim period at $75,000 per location, with a total maximum of $300,000 between all affiliated entities per claim period. The claim periods currently open to applicants are as follows:
General Approach to Calculate Revenue Drop
Alternative Approach to Calculate Revenue Drop
September 27 to October 24, 2020
October 2020 over October 2019 or September 2020 over September 2019
October 2020 or September 2020 over average of January and February 2020
October 25 to November 21, 2020
November 2020 over November 2019 or October 2020 over October 2019
November 2020 or October 2020 over average of January and February 2020
An applicant must demonstrate a revenue decline in, for example, October 2020 over October 2019, September 2020 over September 2019, or either October 2020 or September 2020 over an average of January and February 2020 in order to qualify for CERS for expenses accrued between September 27 to October 24, 2020.
Lockdown Support Top-Up
The lockdown support top-up is available to applicants that qualify for the base subsidy amount and that have been ordered closed or had their business activities significantly restricted for at least one week due to a COVID-19-related public health order. The health order must:
- be issued by a federal, provincial or municipal government, or a local health authority
- be limited based on at least one of these factors:
- geographical boundaries
- type of business or other activity
- risks associated with a particular location
- result in sanctions or be an offence if you do not comply
- require you to stop some or all of your regular activities while the order is in place
Activities you were not able to carry out must account for at least approximately 25% of total revenues at that location during the prior reference period.
The lockdown support top-up is equal to 25% of eligible expenses. It is also subject to a cap of $75,000 per location (but the $300,000 cap placed on the base subsidy amount does not apply to the lockdown support top-up).
The amounts payable under the CERS program will only be based on eligible expenses.
Eligible expenses include qualifying rent expenses, but also include the following:
- Property tax (including school and municipal taxes)
- Property insurance
- Interest on commercial mortgages (subject to limits, and less any subleasing revenues)
Sales taxes are not considered to be eligible expenses. Expenses must be between arm’s-length entities and are limited to those paid under agreements in writing entered into before October 9, 2020. Applications must be made within 180 days after the end of the qualifying period.
The CERS program was officially launched on November 23, 2020, and the first three qualifying periods have been identified. As this program is set to continue until mid-2021, more announcements for future qualifying periods are expected to be released periodically.