VICTORIA -- The B.C. government has launched a new program to protect small businesses from eviction if their landlords have not signed up for federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA).

While many landlords have applied for the federal grant program, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James says that the provincial government has heard from many businesses that their landlords have not applied for the funding.

“There are landlords that have not applied for the relief, and unless the landlords apply for the grant small businesses can’t receive support,” said James.

If a landlord is eligible for the program but has not applied for the funding, small businesses in B.C. will be protected from eviction wit hthe new Emergency Program Act (EPA), she said.

“Preventing landlords who are eligible for CECRA from evicting tenants can encourage landlords to apply for the program and give some temporary relief to businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” said the finance minister in a statement.

Through CECRA, property owners are expected to offer a minimum rent reduction of 75 per cent for April, May and June a loss of at least 70 per cent in revenue.

Besides the loss of revenue, an eligible small business must also have a monthly rent under $50,000 and earn less than $20 million in gross annual revenue per year.

James says that B.C.’s eviction protection will be in effect as long as the federal CERCA program is active. While the CERCA program is scheduled to last until June, the federal government may extend the grant program in the future.

B.C.’s EPA will restrict the termination of leases and the repossession of goods and property from renters if landlords have not filed for a CERCA grant.

On May 8, James announced that more than 400,000 jobs were lost in B.C. during the months of March and April amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, the finance minister described the unemployment numbers as “staggering.

As B.C. continues the second phase of its restart plan, James says that employment numbers will likely remain bleak until later into the summer, when employment data can better reflect the province’s economic restart efforts.

“I think the employment numbers will continue to be tough,” she said. “I don’t think you’ll start seeing the restart data until August and July.”

The B.C. government has set aside $5 billion to help the economy recover through its COVID-19 Action Plan.

Most of the funding, $2.8 billion, will go towards people and services while the remaining $2.2 billion will go towards supporting businesses.

As of Monday, more than 500,000 people had applied for B.C.’s Emergency Benefit for Workers, a one-time payment of $1,000 for British Columbians whose work has been impacted by the pandemic.