CEBA dollars prove difficult for farm access

Farms have trouble getting funding due to lack of business accounts

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Glacier FarmMedia – Farmers continue to have issues applying for Canadian Emergency Business Account benefits after the federal government deemed them eligible weeks ago.

The problem centres on the requirement to have a business account at financial institutions. When the program was announced small businesses had to have $50,000 in payroll to be eligible. They also required a business account as of March 1, 2020.

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Although the government later said those requirements were changed, farmers are still running into difficulty.

Why it matters: CEBA is designed to ease short-term cash-flow problems, but help for producers has been delayed.

They have taken to social media to vent their frustration, with one noting he had attempted to apply 300 times.

“‘Please try again later’, ” posted Darold Niwa. “Used to get that rolling up a rim at (Tim Hortons).”

CEBA provides up to $40,000 in interest-free loans and forgives $10,000 of that if the loan is paid off in 2022.

The government said 690,000 applicants had been approved as of July 8, but neither agriculture nor finance officials could say if any of those were farmers.

The Canadian Bankers’ Association said its members have to follow federal guidelines and pointed to the government’s frequently asked questions page on CEBA.

It says: “Businesses which choose to do their banking through a personal bank account are not eligible to apply for a CEBA loan. Only business chequing/operating accounts opened on or prior to March 1, 2020, and not in arrears on existing borrowing facilities, if applicable with the lender by 90 days or more as at March 1, 2020, are eligible for the CEBA program.”

Grain Growers of Canada chair Jeff Nielsen said federal officials have repeatedly told him they’re looking into the problem.

He raised the issue again in mid-July on a conference call and said farmers around the country are having the problem.

The response from agriculture officials was that they know it has been an issue for some time and that finance is constantly tweaking the program.

Nielsen said he is concerned about how long it is taking to sort out.

“They were giving us an update on other programs and they were saying some of these are fully subscribed. Is there a timeline on the CEBA program? You have a lot of sole proprietors that can’t access it,” he said.

In his own case he applied July 3 with help from his bank manager but his application was still under review July 20.

Processing delays are another problem farmers are reporting.

When Ottawa expanded the program to make it easier for small businesses without payroll, officials estimated that more than 67,000 farmers could take advantage of it.

Information was unavailable at press time on whether the March 1 date had been removed.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business senior vice-president of national affairs and partnerships Corinne Pohlmann said the organization is hearing from farmers and new businesses about this issue. They are the two groups still left out of CEBA, she said.

No one has provided a timeline for when they will be able to access the program, even though the prime minister has said the government would address it.

“We’re still waiting very, very desperately,” she said.

“We continue to push them strongly.”

Pohlmann encouraged farmers to contact their local MPs.

This article was originally published at The Western Producer.

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