B.C. theater owner in a race against time to settle $40K CEBA loan before Jan. 18 cutoff

Movie DetailerCanada B.C. theater owner in a race against time to settle $40K CEBA loan before Jan. 18 cutoff
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Diane Robinson is hopeful that her family-owned movie house in Terrace, B.C. will not face closure as they scramble to gather funds to repay a portion of their Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan by the Thursday deadline.

The Tillicum Twin Theatres, located in the northwestern B.C. town, has become a local institution known for its “safe, relaxed environment … comfy seats and BEST POPCORN you will ever eat!”

However, the business incurred $60,000 in federal government loans to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, these loans are coming due with a special incentive: businesses that can repay $40,000 by January 18th will have the remaining $20,000 forgiven. Failing to meet the deadline means they will still owe the full $60,000, with five percent interest accruing starting on January 19th.

“My brothers and I have decided to make an effort to gather the $40,000,” said Robinson. “We are facing challenges in meeting the 4:30 p.m. deadline, but we are still working on it, so I remain hopeful.”

Although business owners and premiers across Canada have called for an extension, the government has maintained the January 18th deadline, citing two previous extensions and the cost of further delays.

However, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business warns that without an extension, the current deadline could prove devastating for many small businesses.

“The uncertainty and anxiety about repaying this loan so soon is overwhelming,” said Annie Dormuth, CFIB provincial affairs director for B.C. and Alberta. “Around 20 percent of small businesses in B.C. are at risk of closing if they miss out on the forgivable $20,000 portion. That amounts to approximately 40,000 small businesses in B.C. and 250,000 across Canada.”

Local MP Taylor Bachrach initiated a petition for an extension of the deadline.

Robinson expressed frustration towards the government’s unwavering stance, especially as her family continues to rebuild after the pandemic shutdown resulted in the closure of the Tillicum Twin Theatres for 18 months.

“It feels like a slap in the face from the government,” she remarked. “We understand that we have to repay the loan. Everyone in this situation knows it was a loan. However, it would be nice for the government to consider the individual circumstances of these small businesses and offer some assistance.”

The theatre, located on the main street of Terrace, has been owned by Robinson’s family for nearly six decades.

As a member of the Network of Independent Canadian Exhibitors, the Tillicum Twin Theatres are not alone in facing dire straits among independent cinemas.

“We are all dealing with the same challenges,” Robinson said. “These are family-run businesses, and some are on the brink of closure.”

Over 885,000 small businesses and not-for-profits received CEBA loans, totaling more than $48 billion.

The parliamentary budget officer estimated that extending the $40,000 repayment deadline to the end of 2024 would cost the government $907 million in delayed repayments and forgone interest payments.

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