Grocery businesses have faced many challenges over the years. Among the biggest challenges have been managing cash flow, maintaining inventory levels, and dealing with competition caused by COVID-19. Due to these challenges, many grocery businesses have sought financial assistance in the form of loans to help them stay afloat and continue serving their communities.
To help alleviate some of these struggles, the Canadian government introduced a CEBA loan for grocery businesses. So, let’s take a closer look at what this loan program offers and how it can benefit grocery businesses.
What is CEBA Loan for Grocery?
CEBA, or the Canada Emergency Business Account, is a federal loan program that was created to support small businesses during the pandemic. It was launched on April 9, 2020. Since then, it has helped many small businesses, including grocery. The loan aimed at helping grocery businesses struggling, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program has significantly contributed to the economy, with around $49 billion. Approximately 900,000 businesses have benefitted from this.
How CEBA Helped Grocery Businesses?
The CEBA loan was designed to help businesses like gas stations manage their non-deferrable costs. These costs continue to accumulate regardless of economic slowdown and include expenses like rent, utilities, insurance, taxes, and employment costs. Initially, the scheme offered a zero-interest loan of $40,000 to eligible gas stations. Later, this amount was increased up to $60,000, with a portion forgivable if specific conditions were met. For countless gas stations, CEBA served as a financial cushion, facilitating business operations in the post-COVID era.
Flexibility Offered by the Government for CEBA
The Government of Canada offered flexibility in its approach to supporting grocery businesses through CEBA loans. On September 14, 2023, an announcement was made that updated the repayment deadlines for these loans, including those used by grocery businesses. This announcement extended the repayment period by another year, providing extra breathing space for grocery businesses under financial strain.
Furthermore, the updated terms also increased the flexibility for grocery businesses qualifying for partial loan forgiveness. This potential forgiveness could amount to up to 33% of the loan, a significant relief for grocery businesses navigating the post-pandemic economy.
According to this revised deadline, gas stations now have until January 18, 2024, to repay their CEBA loans. This is an extension from the original date of December 31, 2023. Grocery businesses wanting to refinance their loans need to apply to their financial institution by this new deadline.
The government has introduced incentives for early repayment. Partial loan forgiveness is available for grocery businesses that repay their loan by January 18, 2024, or before the refinancing extension deadline of March 28, 2024, provided a refinancing application was submitted before January 18, 2024. For a $40,000 loan, the forgiveness amount is $10,000, and for a $60,000 loan, it’s $20,000.
But there are consequences for missing the deadline. From January 19, 2024, any outstanding CEBA loan balance will be converted into a three-year term loan, losing the benefit of zero interest. A 5% annual interest rate will be levied on the remaining balance, increasing the financial burden on those gas stations.
And then, there is the final cutoff for repaying all outstanding CEBA loans, along with applicable interest, which is set for December 31, 2026. This deadline applies to all grocery businesses, with no exceptions. This represents a change from the previous deadline, which was December 31, 2025. Thus, all grocery stores now have an additional year to complete repayment without any penalties.
The term loans, including those held by grocery businesses, are subject to an annual interest rate of 5 percent. This interest rate applies to the remaining balance of the CEBA loans. However, it’s important to note that the frequency of interest payments may not be the same for all grocery businesses, as it can vary depending on the financial institution.
How Grocery Businesses Can Pay Back CEBA?
Grocery businesses looking to repay their CEBA loans can choose from several convenient methods. Online banking is a popular choice, offering simple and quick transactions right at your fingertips. Mobile apps provide the flexibility to manage loan repayments even when on the go, ensuring your grocery business stays on top of its financial obligations.
Opting for automatic monthly payments can be another wise decision. This method eliminates the risk of missing deadlines, which is crucial for maximizing loan forgiveness benefits for grocery businesses.
Lastly, ATM transactions allow for the manual payment of loans, which some grocery store owners might prefer. Each repayment method comes with its own unique advantages, enabling every grocery business to select the one that fits its needs and circumstances best.
In case grocery businesses fail to repay their CEBA loans by the final deadline, December 31, 2026, they would face a loan default. This would lead to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) initiating collections. However, the intensity of CRA’s collections efforts remains uncertain. Grocery stores that have managed their monthly interest payments diligently yet struggled with the principal repayment may have a chance to negotiate a more favorable repayment plan.
Nonetheless, it’s recommended for these grocery businesses to arrange an alternative lender before the end date, December 31, 2026. Taking this step could protect grocery stores from a loan default, possible impact on their credit score, and potential collection issues.
The CEBA loan program has undeniably been a lifeline for countless grocery businesses navigating the stormy seas of the pandemic. Through flexible repayment terms, potential loan forgiveness, and various repayment methods, the world of grocery has been given a fighting chance to thrive among adversity. As we move forward, let’s celebrate the resilience of the grocery sector, a vital cornerstone of our communities.