It has been a year since Alberta shut down to battled COVID-19. Though it started as an extended March break away from the kids and a few weeks of working from home, it quickly became apparent that we would be in for the long haul.
It feels like we are finally on the home stretch. A fourth, single dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is now available in Canada and our governments are promising to have vaccines available to all in the coming months.
But we are not there yet. Increased cases in Lethbridge highlights the need for all of us to be careful and vigilant.
Local businesses have faced a year of frustration, stress and for many – severe financial loss. The rainy-day reserves have long since been used up and debt levels are making it difficult to be able to continue borrowing.
Wage and Rent Subsidy Expansion
The Government of Canada announced recently that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy programs will continue at the current support rates until June, providing some much-needed certainty and financial support for business.
Canada Emergency Business Account Repayment
The Canada Emergency Business Account has been an important lifeline for many small businesses across the country by providing vital access to capital. Businesses in our hardest hit sectors will likely take several years to have their cashflow return to pre-2020 levels as they service their debts, rebuild their consumer base, and continue to modernize. These sectors include accommodation, food service, arts, entertainment, recreation, and retail.
The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce is asking the Government of Canada to:
- Extend by two years the repayment deadline for eligibility for loan forgiveness for the Canada Emergency Business Account to December 31, 2024
- Implement an income-based payment plan – similar to the CEWS eligibility criteria – for businesses that require longer to recover from the challenges of COVID-19
These modifications will help businesses though recovery and ease the current stress and anxiety many small business owners are dealing with.
Freeze the alcohol tax
In 2017, the government brought in automatic tax increases for alcohol. The next increase is slated for April 1, 2021. We are calling on the Government of Canada to freeze the alcohol tax rate.
The food service industry – restaurants, pubs, and bars and their suppliers, including breweries, farmers, and their logistics companies – are among the hardest hit right now. Successful restaurants had profit margins of four to six percent when times were good, and this tax is an added burden especially with indoor dining closed or significantly reduced.
Businesses need local support
The most important resource for local businesses is the support of their customers and the community as a whole. We all need to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and work our way back to a few local cases and fewer social and business restrictions. We also need to continue patronizing our favorite local businesses.
Beginning March 31, 2021 we will be hosting our monthly information session on various government programs with Byron Anderson, Workforce Consultant, Government of Alberta.