Halifax businesses scramble to repay CEBA loans

Deadline for repayment passes as business owners worry about survival

3 min read
caption Lindsay MacPhee and her dog Pearl sit inside her business on King Street in North End Halifax that used a federal CEBA loan.
Meig Campbell

Two Halifax business owners say they’re worried about the survival of their firms after the federal government refused to extend the deadline for repayment of CEBA loans last week.

The Canada Emergency Business Account Program (CEBA), which distributed loans to Canadian businesses during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, was due for repayment last Thursday.

Lindsay MacPhee is the owner of The Floatation Centre, a wellness centre located in the North End of Halifax and is one of 16,000 Nova Scotian business owners to obtain this loan. MacPhee says that the latest deadline has come at a less-than-ideal time for most business owners.

“The last couple of years have gone by in a complete blur, and it has absolutely not been easy. So, for this deadline to suddenly be here, and it’s also for most people, a slow season, because January is typically the worst for small businesses, it’s kind of . . . a double whammy,” MacPhee says.

Ottawa pushed back the CEBA loan repayment deadline twice after objections to previous deadlines from Canadian business owners and provincial premiers. The loans of $60,000 were provided to each business on the condition that $40,000 would be repaid by the deadline.

Businesses could also get the loan refinanced by a financial institution.

Business owners that missed the deadline will have until December 2026 to repay the entirety of the $60,000 loan with five per cent interest.  

According to Duncan Robertson, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, no matter what route business owners pursue, last week’s repayment deadline will cause extensive financial strain on most small businesses in Nova Scotia.

“It’s a difficult time for many small businesses and this is not the time for the federal government to be playing hardball with small businesses. We’ve asked for the repayment of the forgivable portion to be extended by a year. We’ve had the support from every premier in Canada,” Robertson said.

Tracy Barron, spokeswoman for Nova Scotia’s Department of Economic Development, echoed Robertson by calling for another repayment deadline extension, saying in a statement that “CEBA was a lifeline for so many businesses across Canada, including in Nova Scotia, during the pandemic, and they need more time to repay without losing the loan forgiveness.”

Wendy Friedman, founder of the Biscuit General Store and The Independent Mercantile Co., both located on Gottingen Street in the city’s North End, agrees.

“Everything’s gone up. So, I can’t go shopping. I can’t spend money on things. People aren’t spending money on our businesses, so trying to find $40,000 to pay back a loan this year was really, really hard,” Friedman says.

caption The Biscuit General is one of two businesses owned by Wendy Friedman on Gottingen Street that used a CEBA loan.
Meig Campbell

Robertson says the CEBA repayment will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many Nova Scotia businesses.

MacPhee is raising the repayment money with help from friends and stays optimistic about the future of The Floatation Centre.

“I know I’ll have to keep working harder with having less and just try to make it through. Just knowing that there will be a light at the end of this, I just have to really trust in that.”

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