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Small businesses in Northern Ontario say it's difficult to find the money to repay loans made during the COVID pandemic since the economy has not yet fully rebounded from the pandemic. (Archive photo)

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Many small businesses in Northern Ontario that received financial assistance from the federal government to survive closures during the COVID-19 pandemic are finding themselves struggling to repay the tens of thousands of dollars they borrowed by this deadline to avoid paying interest.

Lola Jones, owner of a clothing and home decor store in North Bay, told CBC News in an interview Wednesday that she wasn't sure she would be able to pay off her loan on Jan. 18.

She says she had no choice in obtaining a loan from the Canada Emergency Business Account to survive due to the mortgage and other bills to pay when his business was closed during lockdowns.

Ms. Jones finds it a little unfair that small business owners were forced to take on debt while employees of those same businesses received the Canada Benefit ;emergency and did not have to make a refund.

In Thunder Bay, Ungalli clothing company owner Hailey Hollinsworth says she needed to use all the profits from holiday sales to be able to repay her loan on time. /p>LoadingFAE: Laval union members reject the agreement in principle

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Now that puts us in a difficult situation to start the year.

A quote from Hailey Hollinsworth, owner of clothing company Ungalli

The problem is if you don't pay the In total, you don't benefit from any exemption, explains the president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, Charla Robinson.

So you either have $40,000 or you don't, and now you owe $60,000.

A quote from Charla Robinson, President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce

Many of those who originally took out the loan thought that the economy would come back a little stronger in their sector than it did, Robinson adds.

The president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce points out that there is also the option of refinancing the loan with your financial institution, but she admits that it is difficult to obtain a loan of $40,000 when&#x27 ;a business is experiencing financial difficulties.

In Hearst, Lina Lamontagne, owner of Pizza Place: Bar and Grill, was able to repay $40,000 $ borrowed before the deadline, allowing him to keep the remaining $20,000 of the total loan of $60,000.

She believes owning the restaurant for 27 years and having little debt has helped her a lot.

If I had been in business for 10 years, it would have been a completely different matter.

A quote from Lina Lamontagne, owner of Pizza Place: Bar and Grill

Ms. Lamontagne adds that her clientele is loyal, but the income lost due to the closure of the dining room, which forced her restaurant to offer only take-out and delivery, forced her to take out this loan.< /p>

[I needed the] $60,000, I used it well, she says.

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Lina Lamontagne stays informed about the restaurant industry in the region. (File photo)

Once the restrictions were lifted, she put as much money aside as possible to be able to repay the loan when the deadline came.

I waited until the end, to be honest with you. I was hoping that the government would give us another little gift, adds the restaurateur, emphasizing that supply costs have increased significantly.

< p class="Text-sc-2357a233-1 imohSo">In the last six months, there are things that have increased by 25, then 35%, and then it continues.

A quote from Lina Lamontagne, owner of Pizza Place: Bar and Grill

Restaurant Canada, who provides us with information almost every day [ …], tells me that 20% of restaurateurs [who have obtained a COVID loan are on the brink of collapse], adds Ms. Lamontagne.

With information from Erik White and Félix Hallée-Théoret

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