Vancouver Island business owners who can’t pay rent looking for help

WatchThe BC Chamber of Commerce is working with provincial and federal leaders to help small business owners who can't pay rent and need assistance.

Though announcements of government assistance have come almost daily, numerous business owners are finding they don’t qualify.

With rent payments overdue, the BC Chamber of Commerce is spearheading a search for solutions but many fear the changes won’t come soon enough.

For the past eight years, Kim McNutt’s passion has been her Blue Poppy Gallery, an eclectic island-life-style shop showcasing local artisans.

But after the usual slow months, March is when business normally starts to pick up – but with the onset of COVID-19 and tourism ground to a halt, she’s in trouble.

“I’m facing bankruptcy. I can’t pay my rent. I have no income. Yeah, it’s pretty scary,” said McNutt.

She’s among the business owners who have signed an online petition calling on the federal government to mandate the waiving of rent for up to three months.

The owner of Nanaimo restaurant Eve Olive is also feeling the pinch. Her not quite two-year-old plant-based restaurant, featuring locally produced foods, was just gaining a foothold when COVID-19 arrived.

“At the rate that we’re going, we’re not going to pay our rent at the end of the month. I haven’t had that conversation with my landlord yet because I’m trying to find a way to work it out on my own,” said Ambre Rippon

She too would like to find a government assistance program that would help the restaurant without shutting down the take-out business they’re currently running

The head of the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce has heard from numerous businesses in a similar spot and says the BC chamber is advocating for another program to help small businesses.

“I’ve spoken with our Member of Parliament. I’ve spoken with our MLA Sheila Malcolmson just in fact had her in a webinar just this morning talk about relief for businesses. The rental question came up in a chatbox on that specifically this morning and she said the province and the feds are working together to come up with some sort of relief that’s going to work,” said Kim Smythe, the Chamber’s CEO.

Ottawa added yet another change to the employee wage subsidy by allowing employers to bring people back and then reimburse them for Employment Insurance or Canada Pension Plan payments.

“That’s actually driving some change for some employees that come back but aren’t actively working,” said Bill Morneau, the federal Finance Minister.

“I’m really just waiting and seeing. Without help, there’s no question that I won’t make it,” said McNutt.

McNutt says as a business owner she’s always found a way when problems have arisen. She hopes once again she’ll find a new road forward.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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