As the pandemic drags on, more and more small businesses have shuttered their doors forever.
After months without in-store sales for many businesses, and an ongoing third province-wide lockdown, our main streets are looking more like the empty sets of old westerns, rather than the vibrant communities we knew them to be.
How can Ontario’s small businesses be expected to survive, when many have been fully closed since November, while their bills have continued to mount? When their average COVID-19 debt is about$208,000? When only 25% are at their usual revenues for this time of year?
Just being allowed to stay open or to reopen after the latest lockdown won’t make up for lost sales by itself, especially as the provincial and municipal governments continue to tell people to stay home.
Add in low consumer confidence and changed shopping habits — and what you get is the recipe for a lengthy and drawn-out recovery.
Small businesses need the government that closed them to help them navigate the long road to the other side of COVID-19.
The Ontario government must be there to financially support small businesses every step of the way. In a recent CFIB survey, three-quarters of Ontario’s small businesses said that government programs are crucial to their survival in 2021.
We appreciate the provincial government’s move to double funding to small businesses that have already received the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. However, while this well-meaning grant has provided some additional much-needed support to many businesses, it has turned into a disaster for far too many others.
We continue to deal with a tsunami of inquiries from small business owners because their calls and emails to the government have gone unanswered.
Some business owners have yet to receive any funding, despite having been informed of their approval weeks ago. Other business owners have remained in application limbo since January, with no update or response from the government on their status.
Some business owners have received an audit notice instead of a second payment, even though the government said they would get a second, equal amount of funding automatically.
Furthermore, the Ontario Small Business Support Grant ended on April 7 without helping the thousands of hard-hit small businesses across the province with huge revenue drops due to stay-at-home orders.
These businesses include construction companies, dry cleaners, caterers, the entire restaurant supply chain, many breweries, regulated and unregulated health professionals, print shops, and businesses that have the same owner, just to name a few.
The Ontario government committed to doing whatever it takes to help small businesses — especially significantly impacted ones — weather the economic effects of government lockdown decisions. Since the Ontario government chose to lock down small businesses across the province for the third time, they should turn these words into further actions by extending and increasing access to the Small Business Support Grant.
The government must be held accountable for every lockdown decision, especially the most recent one.
They had other options to curb the spread of COVID-19, like widespread rapid testing, renewed contact tracing, and improved and expedited vaccine rollouts. They chose instead to repeat a failed policy, expecting a different outcome.
A full 30% of Ontario’s small businesses are worried about closing for good. The Ontario government can help stop this worry from becoming reality.
No one wants to see our main streets turn into old western ghost towns.
The grant program must be fixed immediately to help restore small business confidence in the Ontario government.
— Julie Kwiecinski is CFIB’s Director of Provincial Affairs, Ontario