Since our last issue of ACCion News, the world has been turned on its head.
Everyone’s COVID-19 experience is unique. From coping with loss of income to personal isolation to low-income jobs becoming essential to the provision of health services and food security, our perceptions of the value of people and their roles in society will be decidedly altered.
Getting through this together has been adopted as the guiding principle of our response. Never before have we seen governments at all levels as responsive and business interest groups as collaborative
Even in the face of unprecedented challenges, Canadians have rallied to provide support to minimizing infection and protecting the most vulnerable.
Chambers Helping Businesses in Need
In their role of representing business, Chambers of Commerce across the region are striving to help local businesses navigate the numerous, complex, hurriedly developed financial support programs designed to protect businesses and employees from the possibility of permanent closure. With no previous experience to guide us, governments and businesses are doing a commendable job of creating a financial safety net that can get many through the shock of social distancing.
Chambers of Commerce themselves have not been spared from the liquidity crunch imposed by forced business closures. Some have had to cut back on operations and staffing levels temporarily as their membership and event revenues have been drastically reduced. But the Chambers are rising to the challenge with volunteer board members and members at large stepping up to help ensure businesses can get the information they need. Governments at all levels view Chambers as a key resource to provide information and gather feedback from business affected by the COVID-19 shut down.
Whether sufficient or sufficiently quick, we are grateful Canada is in a position to create programs that offer deferrals and financing to avoid foreclosures. And to the extent possible, the Atlantic Chamber’s critical role is to ensure our network of businesses are aware of and can access the critical resources that will allow them to weather the current circumstances and emerge in a position to serve their clients.
To support Chambers of Commerce across the region, the Atlantic Chamber is committed to providing regular updates on federal and provincial program options and the evolving eligibility criteria for accessing the new benefits and financing. Our team is monitoring and reporting on national/provincial initiatives; and our network is sharing these updates with their members to inform their decisions about staff, retention, reduction, deferral of payments and additional financing to make monthly payments.
Preparing for the New Reality
Whether the worst is over or not, we don’t know exactly what the world will look like after. But the Atlantic Chamber is working with its Chambers, talking to business owners and leaders, and evaluating what needs to be done to hit the ground running as quickly as possible. It is clear just from the magnitude of support programs so far, that the country does not have the power or resources to just make all payments go away. So, the earlier we can relax business restrictions, get business back to business, the less economic pain we will have to endure.
We do know that things will be different for a long while after COVID as consumer confidence rebuilds, but most certainly there will be an increased acceptance and use of virtual business models and e-commerce for transactions. What has been imposed on many will now become a new operational reality. Businesses will need to be agile and ready to adapt and invest in new service models.
But we must subdue the virus. We must maintain patience and vigilance. As our economic restart will likely involve an easing of restrictions that require a managed step-by-step approach while ensuring public safety is maintained. From plexiglass shields for cashiers to new hygiene practices for construction and manufacturing, these could become standard business practices as we attempt to operate and rebuild consumer confidence in a post-COVID, pre-vaccine environment.
There is much thinking and planning that needs to be done.
A Voice & Helping Hand for Business in Atlantic Canada
Chambers of commerce have always been a primary resource for business and communities - a voice and a solid support in times of need. We are ready to play a role in rebuilding in the 94 communities we serve as they each find their way back to prosperity.
We continue to solicit business feedback so that we can provide it to all levels of government. Our teams continue to monitor daily updates nationally and from each of the four Atlantic Provinces. Our Chambers are hosting webinars with subject matter experts that are being shared throughout the entire Chamber network. And we are working with our benefit providers to make sure member businesses have access to savings and programs that will ease the burdens on their bottom lines (e.g., health insurance, e-commerce solutions, online courier services, and other insurance needs).
We know livelihoods are at stake and that this has been an economic shock of epic proportions. If you are a business owner and need information or help, please connect with your
local community Chamber
(by town or chamber name) or refer to our
COVID-19 support page
on the Atlantic Chamber website that houses support measures information and links, key government contacts, webinars and free training that is available.
We are a strong network of support and
we are here to help