While the rate of COVID-19 infections appear to have decreased and stabilized, the nature of government programs continue to mutate almost daily. With some exceptions, government efforts to safeguard public health and provide support to individuals and business has been responsive and well-received.
The speed with which governments have reacted is unprecedented and reflective of the crisis conditions of an almost three month interruption in business operations. The experience of the recent months has been an “everyone on deck” approach with a bit of a sense of chaos in terms of accessing clear and reliable information about opportunities and regulations.
The Atlantic Chamber has attempted to assist our members by providing regular updates on issues related federal and provincial emergency response funding and working capital loans/grants. We have developed and maintained a dedicated ACC COVID-19 website that provides links to reliable information sources regarding programs and health protection regulations both federal and provincial. And we have monitored the announcements of the federal and four provincial governments and communicated information relevant to businesses since March 18.
In addition, we’ve engaged in advocacy and highlighted many instances to government where badly-needed programs excluded individuals and businesses based on seemingly arbitrary eligibility criteria. We’ve worked the chamber network at the provincial and federal levels to highlight issues voiced by Atlantic Canadian companies as they adapt to massive revenue reductions and keeping their businesses.
But now the emphasis has to be on creating circumstances where businesses can reopen and operate at levels that will ensure their survival. Our guidance to businesses includes a need to effectively communicate operational measures to safeguard employees and the public, and evaluate their business plan in light of potential increases in on-line commerce and telework.
At the same time, chamber of commerce will be encouraging governments to provide notifications of changing regulations, including border restrictions, as early as possible. Our tourism and hospitality industries are attempting to adapt but cannot survive forever under current operational restrictions. They need to be informed of projected dates for relaxation of travel restrictions to plan operations and engage employees as they struggle to salvage what may be left of the summer vacation season.
And we will continue to consult with government on the impact of emergency response benefits on employees’ willingness to return to the workplace. We applaud government in its efforts to protect Canadians from financial ruin associated with losing a paycheck but submit that our long term prosperity must include shifting family incomes from government coffers back to the workplace.
As we move forward chambers of commerce will continue to offer insights to government about the frontline challenges of business under the new and continually changing normal.