COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our community. Lives have been lost and our most trusted systems have been challenged. This third wave and the Province’s stay-at-home order is having a massive impact on residents and businesses. Our small business community has suffered the brunt, losing billions of dollars per month. It has challenged the survival of many long established businesses, with an alarming percentage having had to close their doors. Though many have evolved their operations, the last surviving businesses are fighting to hang on.
We can no longer sustain this trajectory and we need to stand firmly by our small businesses in this time of crisis. These are not just businesses, they are our friends, neighbours and family members who run them and who work at them. Many of them have invested their life savings, have borrowed from their retirements, and have even risked their own homes to keep their businesses afloat in the hope that they will survive this. 90 per cent of Niagara’s total businesses have fewer than 10 employees. They are the backbone of our communities, supporting our little league teams and providing services we need. Now is the time for us to take action for them. Supporting local has never been more critical. Using small businesses for curbside pick ups and local deliveries could help keep these businesses alive.
We are calling for increased support for our business community now. Municipalities across Niagara have been using all of the resources at our disposal to support businesses at every opportunity by doing things like:
- Deferring property taxes
- Eliminating fees for business and patio licences
- Allowing patio extensions and street closures
- Implementing “Buy Local” campaigns
- Expediting approvals and licensing processes
All of this has not been enough. Though we are grateful for recent budget investments from the government, businesses will not survive if we do not do more. We are asking for continued financial supports and extended benefits for business from our Provincial and Federal Governments, including:
- Previously funded benefits and programs need to be distributed as quickly as possible
- Introduction of new supports or reopening applications for all affected businesses with streamlined processes
- Federal and Provincial coordination to provide sick leave benefits, ensuring unallocated funds are dispersed immediately
The light at the end of the tunnel with vaccines is here, but the devastation suffered by our small business community will have long-lasting effects on our economy. They too are essential.