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Canadian Chamber of Commerce joins calls for extension of CEBA repayment deadline

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of industry associations have joined calls for the federal government to extend the deadline for small businesses to repay pandemic loans received through the Canada Emergency Business Account program.
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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of industry associations have joined calls for the federal government to extend the deadline for small businesses to repay pandemic loans received through the Canada Emergency Business Account program. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of industry associations have joined calls for the federal government to extend the deadline for small businesses to repay pandemic loans received through the Canada Emergency Business Account program.

A letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday urges her to push back the repayment deadline by two years to the end of 2025, or at least by one year, while allowing businesses to maintain access to the forgivable portion of up to one-third of their loans.

Approximately $49 billion went out to about 900,000 businesses through the program and a spokeswoman for Freeland’s office said earlier this month that 21 per cent of the businesses fully repaid their loans as of May 31 — seven months ahead of the current Dec. 31 deadline.

During the pandemic, the program provided up to $60,000 in interest-free loans to small businesses and not-for-profits, but the chamber says around half of CEBA loan-holder companies are still making below-normal revenues.

Matthew Holmes, senior vice president of policy and government relations for the chamber, says small and medium-sized businesses hit hardest by the pandemic should not be penalized at a time when they are facing pressures such as high-interest rates, inflation and increased labour costs.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said this month that nearly one-fifth of small businesses are at risk of closure without an extension on the repayment of their CEBA loans.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2023.

The Canadian Press