Small business owners struggle with future despite government assistance

WatchSome business owners are finding federal government assistance challenging.

A number of small business owners and charities are finding it a challenge to navigate the federal assistance programs.

They say details are scarce when trying to make business decisions and they don’t qualify for some.

The struggle has a Vancouver Island NDP MP calling for a relaxation of some of the rules.

One business, Gina’s Mexican Cafe in Nanaimo, has been operating for 36 years but the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close.

Sharon Stares will reopen it Friday for takeout but she’s not sure how many of her 25 employees will be able to come back if they have to choose between fewer hours and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

“They will for sure qualify for the two weeks that we’ve been closed,” said Stares, Gina’s Owner.

“Then we’ll see how many decide to come back versus be on the CERB benefit.”

Stares says it’s also unclear how much her employee’s wages will be subsidized when their hours vary from week to week.

The owner of the Rock Cod Cafe in Cowichan Bay says his debts are growing. Jacob Hokanson, in a plea to the federal government, says Ottawa will likely give him a $40,000 loan with 25 per cent forgiven but it won’t be enough.

“That’s just not going to cut it. What that means is instead of going bankrupt in a couple of months I can go bankrupt next February because I’ve lost crucial seasonal revenue and simply deferred debt to a future space and time,” said Hokanson.

The NDP’s small business critic says his office has been flooded with calls for help and the federal government needs to do more.

“We’d like them to make it easier,” said Gord Johns, the NDP’s Small Business Critic and Alberni-Courtenay MP.

“Make sure that when they tell people they got their backs that it’s not with a bunch of conditions and also expand and increase the offer to entrepreneurs and non-profits because what they are offering right now is falls quite far short from what other countries are doing for their small business community.”

In a statement, the government said everything announced to date is to respond to what we’ve heard from businesses across the country, including the hospitality sector.

“We will continue to listen to businesses in the hospitality sector and will do whatever it takes to help them through this unprecedented time,” said Ryan Nearing, Press Secretary Office for the Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade Ministry.

Gord Johns says if changes aren’t made soon many businesses will go under which will cost the government more in the long run.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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