The federal government has come through for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), and 33 of its struggling commercial tenants couldn’t be happier.
With a summer like no other winding down as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate local tourism and related businesses, the $358,000 in Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance funding provided to the harbour authority to help local businesses comes at a good time, says Nathan Bird, general manager of eco-tourism company Eagle Wing Tours.
“In a year filled with bad news, Eagle Wing Tours is pleased to receive this good news,” he said in a statement released Wednesday (Sept. 2). “The relief supplied to us through this program and GVHA’s efforts to secure the savings for its customers will assist us in navigating a terrible year and set us up for recovery in the upcoming years.”
The not-for-profit GVHA worked with tenants to apply for the retroactive funding, which allows for a 75-per-cent reduction in rent for approved businesses between April and August. The federal program covers 50 per cent of the rent, the tenant pays 25 per cent and GVHA will forgive the remaining 25 per cent.
The financial help provides a lifeline to these local businesses, many of which are small, family run operations.
“To say the impact of the pandemic has been significant is an understatement,” stated GVHA CEO Ian Robertson. “The support provided by the Government of Canada is much needed for our customers to remain solvent into the coming fall and winter months.”
Through the spring and summer GVHA staff also worked with commercial tenants in evaluating rents based on the service levels and business plan of each operation, and instituted a rent deferral program for tenants who signed leases extending to next June.
The harbour authority operates public, commercial and marine industrial facilities around Victoria’s Inner and Outer harbours. All are open, with operational changes having been made to accommodate provincial public health regulations designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Besides tenants’ difficulty paying rent, the GVHA itself has struggled in the wake of COVID. The 2020 cruise season was cancelled – the industry contributes more than $130 million annually to the region’s economy and is responsible for 800 direct and indirect jobs – resulting in staff layoffs and the deferral of major capital projects.
For more information about the harbour authority and activities at its various properties, visit gvha.ca.