Published On: October 18, 2022|By |Categories: Blog, News|

Repaying CEBA loans unlocks up to $20K for small businesses, but financial guidance needed, new study finds

For lenders, CEBA represents opportunities to acquire and retain small business borrowers, although operational readiness challenges remain.

VANCOUVER, October 18, 2022 – Amidst the backdrop of rising inflation and a possible recession on the horizon, the coming “CEBA Tsunami” represents a $15 billion opportunity for community lenders to help get much-needed capital in the hands of small businesses, according to a study by JUDI.AI, a small business lending technology provider, and Angus Reid. 

To commemorate BDC’s Small Business Week, JUDI.AI partnered with Angus Reid to conduct a survey exploring how lenders can better serve Canadian small businesses around CEBA. The survey reveals insights about CEBA loan recipients, their intentions for repaying CEBA loans and the implications for lenders.  


The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program served as a key source of pandemic-related financial assistance, offering interest-free loans of up to $60,000. Nearly 900,000 Canadian small businesses were approved for a total of $49 billion in CEBA funding.  

If CEBA recipients repay their loans in full by December 31, 2023, they are eligible for up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness from the federal government. One option for repaying CEBA loans is securing a conventional loan. In this scenario, lenders may receive hundreds or even thousands of loan applications in the span of a few months, which could put a significant strain on lending operations (hence the “CEBA Tsunami”).  

Survey highlights 

  • 74% of respondents have not yet fully repaid their loan (~650,000 businesses across Canada).
  • While awareness of loan forgiveness is high (87% among businesses who have not fully repaid their loan), 13% remain unaware.
  • 71% of businesses with outstanding CEBA loans plan to pay by the end of 2023, but 29% do not currently have a plan to repay or are not sure if they will repay by the deadline.
  • 63% of businesses who plan to repay the loan in 2023 say they intend to do so with cash on hand, and only 7% say they intend to actively seek out a new business credit solution.
  • However, interest in a proactive loan offer is strong. Owners say they are likely to consider and accept a loan offer from their current financial institution (72%) or new financial institutions (60%).
  • While 62% of small businesses are optimistic for their future, 93% describe themselves as moderately profitable, break even or unprofitable.
  • CEBA is also a DEI opportunity, with 55% of businesses surveyed being owned (in part or in full) by women, people of colour or Indigenous people. 

“With most CEBA loans yet to have been repaid and the 2023 deadline approaching, many businesses are going to be looking for options,” said Demetre Eliopoulos, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Research at Angus Reid Group. “This research shows that many businesses are likely to be considering refinancing as the deadline draws near.”  

Key takeaways for lenders 

CEBA refinancing is a unique, one-time opportunity to support small businesses and grow loan portfolios.
“Freeing up valuable cash remains a priority for small businesses as they grapple with rising interest rates and inflation,” said Gord Baizley, CEO, JUDI.AI. “There’s a big pool for lenders to play in on CEBA.”

Lenders have an important advisory role to play.
Although many small businesses plan to repay CEBA loans with cash on hand, they are also receptive to a timely, relevant refinancing offer. And some CEBA borrowers remain unclear about their plans.“Whether engaging existing borrowers or acquiring new ones, lenders can add value by educating and guiding them through a repayment and refinancing strategy,” noted Baizley.

Are your lending operations ready for the “CEBA Tsunami”?
Within a span of a few months, lenders might see 50% of existing CEBA borrowers apply for credit, and of those, 50% could be funded.“For a CEBA refinancing program to be successful, taking a week to reach a loan decision won’t meet the demand,” continued Baizley. “Lenders will need a way to manage risk effectively and evaluate creditworthiness efficiently – in a matter of minutes.” 


For more information, the full report, The CEBA Tsunami: How Canadian Lenders and Small Businesses Can Ride the Loan Refinancing Wave in 2023, is available here for download.


In partnership with JUDI.AI, Angus Reid Group conducted an online survey in August 2022 among a representative sample of n=328 Canadian small businesses with less than 100 employees that received a CEBA loan. The respondents are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey was conducted in English and French. For comparison purposes only, this sample plan would carry a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. 

About JUDI.AI 

Born and incubated inside a fintech lender, JUDI.AI enables community-based financial institutions to provide a fintech-like experience for small business loans. Our platform combines the speed and experience of consumer lending with some of the rigour of commercial lending. The solution involves a combination of superior digital workflow (for improved borrower and staff experiences) and augmented and accelerated AI-driven decisioning (for better risk management and portfolio performance). JUDI.AI pledges 1% of our equity, revenue, time and product to charities of our customers’ choice. 


About The Angus Reid Group 

Angus Reid is Canada’s most well-known and respected name in opinion and market research data. Offering a variety of research solutions to businesses, brands, governments, not-for-profit organizations and more, the Angus Reid team connects technologies and people to derive powerful insights that inform your decisions. 

Data is collected through a suite of tools utilizing the latest technologies. Prime among that is the Angus Reid Forum, an opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to Canadians. 

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