Hounslow House sign

Toronto small business owners lash out at government funding flaws with #CEBAwontsaveus campaign

In recent weeks, the federal government has rolled out a string of measures to help Canadian businesses and families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But some small businesses say it’s not enough. They either don’t qualify for federal loans or aren’t in the position to go further in debt, according to a new survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

Many have taken to expressing their dissatisfaction with government funding to date. The hashtag #cebawontsaveus is trending in the city. It is being used across social media by business owners in Canada who don’t qualify for Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), pleading for more help from the federal government. As well, many businesses are physically putting up posters and signs in store windows with the phrase.

For example, Parkdale’s Capital Espresso doesn’t qualify for CEBA and is asking for a rent freeze. The shop has also put up a storefront sign.



“Nearly 80 per cent of small businesses are fully or partially closed due to COVID-19 with little or no revenue coming in, while their bills continue to pile up,” Dan Kelly, CFIB’s president said in a statement.

The $25-billion CEBA loan-guarantee program is meant to provide an interest-free loan, up to $40,000, for small- and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic until Dec. 31, 2022 (with up to $10,000 forgivable when fully repaid by December 2022). The requirements include that businesses have between $50,000 and $1 million in payroll.

According to the CFIB, many small firms pay the owner and the owner’s family through dividends rather than salary. So, this requirement excludes thousands of long-standing firms. Among other measures, CFIB recommends allowing businesses to use the loan to access $10,000 as a grant right away to help cover costs, including rent.

A recent survey by Save Small Business shows that 70 per cent of small business owners expect to default on their commercial rent by May 1.

“While more debt isn’t the answer for every business owner, thousands of small firms have applied for this much-needed lifeline. Unfortunately, the smallest businesses – those with payrolls under $50,000 – are not eligible for the support,” Kelly stated.

The federal government also rolled out the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which provides a 75 per cent wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks. It is retroactive to March 15, 2020.  According to a CFIB survey, 29 per cent are saying it will help them avoid further layoffs or recall staff, 37 per cent are saying it will not help them, while 21 per cent are unsure.




Local business Hounslow’s House, a coffee shop located near Old Weston Rd. and St. Clair Ave. West, said in an Instagram post that it seems as though the CEBA roll out is helping many, but it actually isn’t.

“Small business owners have poured their savings, time, livelihoods, everything into their spaces for a chance to create communities within communities. Some of these businesses have operated for decades-Hounslow‘s House is only 2 years old. What will Toronto look like when we have to close our doors for good? What will Ontario look like? Canada? We really need the government to hear us, and we need your help.”



The owner of the ceramic and craft studio, The Shop Toronto, on Dupont, is also concerned about what happens next.



“As a non-essential service and space, how are people going to spend when we get over this hurdle? What are art and community spaces going to look like? And affordable studio spaces?” The owner stated on Instagram.

“I work so hard, with long hours during our normal business routine just to cover costs, it is gut-wrenching to still have to pay all our expenses with no incoming revenue. Partial payment or deferred rent still needs to be paid or will have to eventually. Loans just mean more debt.”

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO