Canadian Government Response to Covid-19
With the COVID-19 outbreak making its way to Canada, many business owners have had to make the choice to reduce hours, lay off staff, or close their doors completely. The Liberal Government is providing people who have lost their jobs more EI and monetary supports, so they can keep paying rent and keep paying bills.
Regina Business Owners React
With many businesses closing their doors, laying staff off, or reducing hours, a lot of the solutions from the government have gone to a consensus, in a local Facebook group entitled, “I Support Local Business Regina”. The overall theme of the posts is that business owners are somewhat happy with the urgency that has been taken with the roll out of the provisions, but that the provisions themselves have some work that needs to be done. As Scott Tresek, owner of CNG Stone Products here in Regina, has said, “There are two things that need to happen immediately. A wage subsidy of at least 80%. The Federal Government is already paying laid off workers ~55% of their wage. They have already announced 10% wage subsidy, which brings the total paid out by government to 65%. Top it up another 15% and pay it directly to employers. If staff are not employed, employers don’t get it. Very difficult for employers to take advantage of it.” Carly Patryluk, owner of House of Paws Pet Boutique, agrees with Tresek, writing, “Whatever provisions are taken to help business owners need to be implemented quickly. (…) Mandating stop payments due April 1st would also be a sign of good faith they actually want to help. Business owners being told ‘rent is due April 1st’ aren’t feeling very confident help is on the way!”
What Can the Government Do?
The next step for the government based on these few comments is clear. Business owners need to feel as if they are being supported, with rent payments and helping to keep their staff on board. Small business makes up a lot of the Canadian economy, “Small business in Canada generates over 800B in GDP. If 50% don’t make it, we are in huge trouble. Catastrophic”, Tresek can be quoted as saying. The idea is not, for everyone, that the Liberal Government isn’t liberal enough with the amount of money they are pledging, mostly that the money is going to the wrong places. Business owners don’t want to, and sometimes can’t, lay off their employees, so instead of bolstering programs such as CERB, providing salary subsidiaries to businesses might be a better step in the right direction.
“We Need Help, Now!”
The general feeling of most business owners in this group is that the help is good, but the amount of time it is taking to receive is not. Brandee Owens, owner of Steel Mace Valkyrie, which is a personal fitness service, and Brandee Boutique, stated “My income is important to my family, as well as my landlord. (…) I don’t know how many months I can pay a lease on a space that isn’t generating any income. I would love our government to support the landlords at this time, which will help so many. If our business leases could be assisted it would make a huge impact and relieve some stress.” Owens makes a good point, if people aren’t working or their businesses have had to close, how are Regina residents meant to make rent payments on leases? Chantel Sebastian shared similar sentiments on the Facebook group, writing, “Everyday that the first of the month draws loser my heart gets more and more nervous and sad.”
Keep Staff on the Payroll
Helping landlords with lease payments is one suggestion this savvy group has come up with in the 15 hours since the conversation started. Putting provisions in place to keep staff on the payroll is a popular sentiment as well. Jennifer Fox, Corporate Development Manager at Auto Electric Service says, “I strongly feel that the government needs to do more to support businesses in trying to keep their staff on the payroll. (…) A wage subsidy program that goes further and supports a wider section of businesses than the current 10% would go a long way to helping us maintain our staff and keep them off new programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. This could potentially save small and medium businesses money as well as save the government as we would have the ability to keep more staff on, rather than them collect CERB for the next few months.”
A lot of the problems for most businesses in Regina is the cost of rent and the feelings of frustration at having to lay off employees for them to just claim CERB. For Karen Hansen Van Duyvendyk, these layoffs mean a lot more, “For those of us who grow live goods this is an extra stressful time. Plants need constant care and with limited staff, this is almost impossible. It’s been difficult to get clear answers from insurance companies and the government. It’s just a very frustrating time for business.”
Support The Landlords
Owner of Steel Mace Valkyrie Students Brandee Owens states: “We need help! I am barely 1 year into my small business located in the warehouse district. My income is important to my family as well as my landlord, paying him for my space helps him support his family. I dont know how many months I can pay a lease on a space that isnt generating any income. I would love our government to support the landlords at this time, which will help so many. If our business leases could be assisted it would make a huge impact and relieve some stress. I appreciated any help we will get. I am sending all my prayers to you all. Best of luck”