The health, safety and wellbeing of all our stakeholders is our utmost priority and we continue to monitor and act according to direction provided by the federal, provincial and municipal governments to control the spread of COVID-19.
RioCan is well positioned to navigate this challenging time, as our pre-eminent major market portfolio and solid balance sheet helps mitigate the impact of economic volatility. Desirable locations and a necessity-based and service oriented tenant mix, comprised largely of National retailers provide inherent income stability, which, combined with the strength of our experienced leadership team, have made us successful for 27 years. These same factors will see us through this unprecedented crisis and fuel growth long into the future.
Our shopping centres are community pillars and have been critical to delivering essential services throughout the pandemic. RioCan has implemented several protocols to protect our employees, tenants, guests, and our business. This is still a highly dynamic situation and we continue to monitor direction from government and public health authorities and will implement appropriate actions and provide updates as they become available.
We are actively supporting our tenants and employees and ensuring they have the information required to operate safely, and in compliance with public health measures. For the foreseeable future, our tenants will establish and adhere to a range of heightened health and safety protocols such as full employee compliance with all mandated sanitation, physical distancing and self-screening measures to name a few. Details regarding our reopening plans are as follows:
We recognize the unexpected financial challenges our tenants may be experiencing due to business slowdown and interruption. We continue to adapt our business practices in real-time to responsibly balance our tenants’ needs with the well-being of all our constituents, in the near and long term.
From the outset, we knew we needed to protect the smaller independent tenants who are the backbone of the economy. RioCan subsequently offered those qualifying independent commercial tenants who requested rent relief, an automatic 60-day, interest-free rent deferral, payable in the subsequent 12 months.
When The Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (CECRA) launched in 2020, we actively participated on behalf of approximately 1,800 qualifying tenant locations in the second quarter and 950 tenants in the third. Over the six-month CECRA period, RioCan abated approximately $14.4 million in gross rents.
We continue to work with tenants whose businesses have been affected by the pandemic. The CERS program replaced CECRA in the fourth quarter, and is in effect until June 2021. CERS funding is provided directly to tenants without the requirement of landlord rent abatement.
In addition to CERS, there are other Government support programs available to retailers such as the Ontario Small Business Support, Ontario Property Tax and Energy Cost Rebates and Quebec COVID-19 Business Support Grants. RioCan continues to use our expertise to ensure that tenants are applying for available government subsidies. To provide further support, RioCan has established an ambassador program to assist our tenants with the application processes, and/or to direct them to available resources. Tenants can email TenantGovtSupport@riocan.com for more information.
There continues to be fluidity regarding business operation, with guidance varying by region. There continues to be some mandated and partial shut downs and some retailers have chosen to adjust their operating hours. We encourage guests to check shopping centre websites and social channels or contact retailers directly for up-to-date information on hours of operation.
RioCan is safeguarding our guests by implementing enhanced safety protocols that follow the guidance of our provincial and municipal health authorities. We have taken appropriate steps to protect and support our guests, tenants and employees at our shopping centres. These include:
Earlier this year RioCan also announced launch of RioCan Curbside Collect™ (“Curbside Collect”), a safe and convenient way for retail tenants and consumers to transact as businesses re-open. Curbside Collect is a RioCan initiative designed to respond to the evolving retail landscape. It offers designated areas for customers to easily access their pre-ordered items from participating stores at applicable RioCan centres in a contactless way. The program assists businesses to safely serve returning customers. Longer term, Curbside Collect is expected to make it easier for merchants and shoppers to coordinate transactions on a regular basis, mitigate the cost of “last mile” logistics for RioCan tenants and drive consumer traffic and repeat visits.
RioCan Living Residential Rental Buildings:
The professional third party property management teams that RioCan has engaged for our RioCan Living residential rental portfolio have implemented a number of initiatives to ensure the health, safety and security of employees and residential tenants including:
RioCan Development Projects:
RioCan’s construction projects remain underway. RioCan continues to monitor development progress daily, ensure worker safety and accommodate labour limitations, and will make necessary adjustments as the circumstances arising from COVID-19 develop.
RioCan continues to monitor and adjust to federal, provincial, and municipal regulations with respect to COVID-19. Across Canada, provincial governments have implemented stay-at-home measures in an effort to curb the rising cases of COVID-19, and we are adapting to comply with these orders.
Effective Thursday, April 8 we have closed our offices for non-essential workers. The health and safety of our people are paramount, and we continue to follow public health direction. Restrictions on all business travel and in-person interaction remain in effect until employees are notified otherwise. We have also facilitated access to RioCan’s Employee Assistance Program to help employees manage any anxiety and stress they may be experiencing.
We provide frequent communication from the leadership team through a number of channels including email updates, FAQ’s and conference calls. The communications provide real-time information, updates regarding protocol and keep RioCan employees connected to the business and each other, by providing insight into how RioCan is supporting tenants, employees, our communities.
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, RioCan will continue to monitor direction from the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and federal, provincial and municipal governments, and we remain committed to implementing appropriate actions and providing updates to all stakeholders, guests, tenants and employees as they become available. The health and safety of our people are paramount, and we continue to follow public health direction. Restrictions on all business travel and in-person interaction remain in effect until employees are notified otherwise.