ACTA Pleased With FES, But Still More To Do

ACTA says it is pleased to see that several initiatives it has been lobbying the federal government for have been addressed in the federal Fall Economic Statement (FES).

The industry association points out that the federal government’s Fall Economic Statement (FES) will benefit the travel industry in a number of ways.

For agencies and agents, ACTA says that the “big wins” that will definitely help include:

  • The government to increase the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to 75% from Dec. 20 through to March 13, 2021. This increase is definitely a positive step for travel agencies and travel agents currently on the CEWS program, or might be once business starts to return more robustly.
  • The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) program will be extended at the current 65% base rate through to March 13, 2021.  This support measure is very important, as over 70% of travel agencies were not able to tap into the original rent subsidy program.  There is also a top up to 90% for businesses shut down due to public health guidelines and ACTA will continue to lobby to have Travel Agencies eligible for the higher amount.
  • The government will work with financial institutions to create the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP). This program will offer 100% government-guaranteed financing for heavily impacted businesses including Travel Agencies, providing low-interest loans of up to $1 million over extended terms, up to 10 years and at rates lower than those offered in the BCAP.  ACTA and a number of Travel Agency leaders, along with the hardest hit industries coalition lobbied government extensively for this program. The vast majority of Canadian travel agencies who applied for the BCAP loan program were denied loans simply because the industry they worked in was considered too high risk.
  • The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program will soon be expanded, allowing access to an additional interest-free $20,000 loan, with half of this additional amount forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022. CEBA has been an extremely valuable program to many of the smaller travel agency businesses and independent contractors and increasing the amount with a forgivable portion is good news.

For travel agents and independent contractors, the government has not yet indicated it will extend the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) to June 2021.

ACTA president, Wendy Paradis observed that: “However, it was already extended to the end of March and we have time to assertively lobby for an extension to June for the thousands of travel agents and independent contractors that are dependent on CRB for an income.”

Paradis continued: “While the FES does not go far enough to protect the thousands of Canadian jobs in the travel industry. It does go a long way to answering some of our hard-fought advocacy on wage subsidy, rent and helping with liquidity through HASCAP with 10 years to repay and low interest.”

No additional details on airline aid packages were included in the FES other than what the government has already indicated – that it is establishing a process with major airlines regarding financial assistance. The original statement said that the government will ensure Canadians are refunded for cancelled flights.

Said Paradis: “We understand that discussions between airlines and the government are still going on about this very important financial support and that ACTA will continue to advocate that any airline aid package that is tied to refunds for cancelled flights must address the commission recall to travel agencies and travel agents.”

ACTA notes that the government also spoke about the importance of the procurement of vaccines and a 2021 plan to vaccinate Canadians which will be essential to a recovery for the travel industry.

As well, they have committed $565 million to procure rapid tests – another essential component to a restart for the industry and reduce the 14-day quarantine.

Over the next few days, ACTA will be speaking to government contacts to get further clarity on these programs and how they relate to ACTA’s 6-Point Plan and the recommendations proposed for sector-specific aid and a tailored approach through 2021 to save travel agencies and independent contractors from devastating and widespread bankruptcies.

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