The federal government’s commercial rent assistance program has been extended by one month to help Canadian businesses cover the cost of rent in September.

The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) was originally intended to only run from April to June. Tuesday’s extension marks the third time the benefit’s lifespan has been extended.

“Our government recognizes that while small businesses’ needs are evolving, many still require support to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and finance minister, said in a statement.

“That is why we are extending the rent relief provided through CECRA by an additional month, to ensure that Canadian businesses hit hardest by COVID-19 get support when they need it most.”

Under the program, different levels of government cover 50 per cent of rent and landlords cover 25 per cent, effectively reducing rent for small businesses by 75 per cent. To qualify for the program, businesses have to show a 70 per cent revenue decline for April, May and June of 2020, compared either to the same period from the previous year or an average of the first two months of this year. As well, it’s up to landlords to apply for the CECRA benefit.

Under the latest extension, those who qualified during the original period will still be eligible for CECRA assistance without having to determine whether the 70-per-cent revenue decline continued in July, August or September.

While the government said it intends to continue providing support to small businesses, it said that Tuesday’s extension will be the last for the CECRA benefit.

“This will be the final extension of this program as the government explores options to support small businesses as they face the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic — including the challenges of fixed costs at a time when health concerns and precautions prevent many businesses from operating at full capacity,” the government said in a news release.

The government reported that as of Sept, 7, 2020, over 106,000 small businesses have taken part in the program for a total of over $1.32 billion delivered in rent support payments.