Major Challenges For SMEs: COVID Debt, Rising Costs, Lack Of Sales 

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

According to new data from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Small Business Recovery Dashboard, small businesses are facing a long and challenging road to recovery. Only 40% are back to normal revenues for this time of the year. The survey results also show only 27% of business owners say they are fully recovered.

Among the many obstacles in the path of a full recovery of Canada’s small business community is the staggering level of fresh COVID-related debt small firms have had to take on during the pandemic. 

“Two-thirds of small businesses (65%) have had to take on debt, at an average of $160,000, just to survive the past two years,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “For almost 900,000 business owners, up to $60,000 of this debt is in the form of a government-backed Canada Emergency Business Account loan.”

CFIB is calling on the federal government to help the hardest-hit SMEs deal with their COVID-related debt by increasing the forgivable portion of their CEBA loan to at least 50% and extending the repayment deadline beyond December 2023.

“The 2022 budget missed an opportunity to forgive a larger portion of these loans for the most deeply affected small businesses,” Kelly added.

Despite the long road back to normal, all major COVID support programs end on May 7, 2022. Many small firms face significant challenges with rising costs for energy, inputs, and insurance (90%) or hikes to government-imposed carbon and payroll taxes (82%). This may explain why 72% of small business owners did not find the measures in the 2022 federal budget particularly helpful for their situation. 

The federation also asks the government to help new businesses excluded from the CEBA program and to forgive a portion of other federal COVID-19 loan programs like HASCAP.

Small business owners can add their voice to CFIB’s petition calling for more debt relief at cfib.ca/covidpetition.

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