C-19 BULLETIN - March 30, 2020

As the federal government further unveils new measures to help small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, TIABC continues to receive feedback from members on how these programs either help or fall short of what’s needed to keep businesses afloat.

While these programs are welcome, two of the biggest issues that TIABC and our sector association partners are hearing are:

1. Where and how can I access, evaluate and utilize these resources in short order?
2. Rent and other fixed costs are due now. How can I access cash today to meet my
obligations?

Along with finding a more efficient process for businesses to access the resources needed and receive the answers they’re looking for, there remain gaps in federal government relief measures, as well as concerns around details, criteria and the application process/timing.

TIABC reached out to sector associations, members and other stakeholders to solicit input on both identifying the gaps, and finding solutions to the problems for government to consider as part of future measures. The following is a summary of our findings, some of which were also represented in our submission to government last week:

Primary Issues:
  • Cash flow issues are becoming critical. With zero revenue due to forced closures from COVID-19, fixed costs (such as property taxes, mortgage payments, commercial rents, insurance, tenure payments, etc.) are accumulating and due for payment April 1, and beyond
  • For many small and medium tourism businesses, cash has been depleted from paying the owner’s living expenses over the winter, seasonal start-up costs, and paying refunds on deposits for cancelled bookings
  • As we are learning, short-term deferrals are not a fix. Many tourism businesses are highly dependent on the summer tourist season for the bulk of their revenue for the year. When deferrals end in six months, and the tourism season is lost, businesses will still not be able to meet obligations and be in severe financial distress
  • The 75% wage subsidy, while going a long way, generally does not help many tourism businesses that are already closed and whose staff have already be laid off. It helps some businesses that have retained a skeleton crew or are able ton retain staff
  • The $40,000 loan program, with a non-repayable portion, will help with paying monthly costs in the short-term. Businesses cite concern about whether they qualify. For example, larger tourism business with payroll over $1 million, and smaller operators with less than or equal to $50,000 do not qualify
  • There is also general confusion, especially for rural and smaller tourism businesses, over the myriad of relief measures, and if their business will qualify, and how to access them. The details of the recently announced programs have not been released

Recommendations
  • The Province to consider a matching program to the Federal $40k loan program
  • Increase the total loan amount (e.g. to over $100k combined)
  • No interest for a year, and a higher forgivable loan portion will help
  • Loan programs in federal business development bank and financial institutions need to be redesigned with a more flexible repayment schedule, taking into account that recovery will likely be two to three years, especially for businesses with overseas visitors
  • With respect to program eligibility, expand the parameters for businesses eligible to accommodate larger and smaller tourism businesses (e.g. Less than $50,000 and greater than $1 million payroll). Note: 73.4% of tourism business have less than or equal to 20 employees, 17.9% operate with 20 -49 employees, while 8.7% have greater than 50 employees (BC Stats, 2017)
  • Better define “small and medium sized” businesses so holding companies that own several small businesses are eligible for loan and other programs
  • Request for deferral of all loan payments until after the business resumes, and flexible repayment schedule
  • While the 75% wage subsidy announced is for three months (March 15 to June 15), it may need to be extended or the amount increased, and timed with when travel restrictions are lifted, to be effective at getting people back to work
  • The CERB provides people with a safety net, but should be examined to ensure that the wage subsidy program provides enough incentive for the business and worker to want to go back to work
  • Extend the 13-week lay-off period to 26 weeks before termination can kick in. If employees can resign and ask for outstanding vacation and severance pay owing under labour standards this will have a serious effect on a business’s cash flow
  • Province to assist in tax cuts and deferments such as municipal tax, remove PST, lower ICBC rates, lower BC hydro rates, crown tenure lease payments, commercial rent relief, waive permit fees, guide licence charges for 2020
  • Insurance costs are rising and insurance companies are not providing any relief
  • Request for the Province to put pressure on insurance companies (e.g. business interruption insurance doesn’t cover COVID-19)
  • Request government to negotiate with insurance companies to encourage monthly payments, not annual fees up front that can be costly and draw on cash flow
  • Business investment protection for businesses that have recently invested in infrastructure
  • Creditor protection (e.g. credit card, leasing companies) for businesses due to COVID-19
  • Request Province to consider non-repayable grants and financial aid, like during BC wildfires

A brief with industry feedback and solutions has been submitted to both the provincial and federal governments as they continue to introduce measures for the tourism and hospitality sector.
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Federal And Provincial Resources for Businesses

Federal business resources

Western Economic Diversification Canada
1-888-338-WEST (9378)

Provincial business resources

Destination COVID-19 updates
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Next BC MindReader Pulse Check

In these unprecedented times, the BC Chamber of Commerce is collaborating with business associations across the province to collect and provide the best information we can to government, from businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions across British Columbia. Information gathered will inform a holistic approach between government and society in acting on the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The BC Chamber of Commerce will be reaching out to BC's business community every two weeks with these short surveys. This ensures we stay informed about the evolving needs of business as the situation unfolds.

A coordinated strategy by governments and businesses will mitigate a worst-case scenario. Your feedback to this survey is essential to inform governments’ understanding of the most pressing impacts you are experiencing and what can be done to ensure government is enacting measures to provide the greatest relief.

This survey has been created in partnership with The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, The BC Business Council, and The Mustel Group.

The survey will take under ~7 minutes to complete. Survey will close on April 1st, 2020.

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Small Business BC FREE Webinar
Keeping Your Customers Informed During the Pandemic
Digital Communications in the Age of COVID-19

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
10:00am to 11:00am
  • Length: 1 hr
  • Language: English

Learn more and register at:
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BC Restaurant Survey

Wanting to better understand the impacts COVID-19 has on the foodservice industry in BC, the BC Restaurant and Foodservice Association has asked all restaurants to complete their   survey  and share what impact this crisis has had on business and what immediate resources are required to keep business afloat.

Please share with restaurants in your network.

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Fishing and Hunting During COVID-19

Fishing remains as one of the most suitable self isolation and social distancing activities available to us. Even so, it bears reiterating that close adherence to Provincial and federal guidelines is important no matter where you are or what you are doing.

Changes and updates to hunting and angling services as of March 28, 2020 include the following:

The Provincial Health Officer (PHO) has not issued any orders restricting individuals from angling and/or hunting at this time.

At all times, individuals are expected to follow the  orders and guidance  provided by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO).

Specific guidance for angling and hunting activities, including but not limited to:

  • Only fish and hunt with members of your family or others you are living with.
  • Maintain physical distancing (2 metres or 6 feet) from other individuals you come across.
  • Do not share vehicles with individuals outside of your family or others you are living with.
  • Fish and hunt locally.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially around communal areas such as boat ramps, gates, etc.
  • Adhere to all travel advisories and self isolation requirements.
  • Adhere to all municipal, First Nation community, provincial and federal closures (e.g. parks, infrastructure, etc.).
  • Many BC Parks and recreation sites are closed. It is suggested to check ahead.
  • If you are not confident you can meet all of these conditions, please postpone your trip.

All angling and hunting regulations and licensing requirements are still in effect.
The  Conservation Officer Service  is continuing to operate across BC.

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Feel free to send us your ideas on what information would be valuable for TIABC to share through our COVID-19 Bulletin going forward. Drop us a line at info@tiabc.ca.