Chamber heartened by gov't plan to support businesses

The Prince George Chamber of Commerce welcomed news that the federal government is planning to increase the subsidy for worker wages to 75 per cent.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government needs to work out the details and may release them as early as Monday. In addition, the government working with banks to provide small businesses loans of up to $40,000 interest-free for a year, with up to $10,000 waived for repayment.

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"Overall, today’s announcement from government was very positive," chamber CEO Todd Corrigall said in an email. "The 75% wage subsidy will provide tremendous relief to (small and medium businesses) and the additional loan opportunity of $40k with 0% interest should provide some stability in uncertain times."

The 75 per cent wage subsidy would be a significant increase over the 10 per cent wage subsidy program currently offered by the government to businesses, non-profit organizations and charities, which critics said wasn't enough to make a significant difference. The current program is valid for wages paid between March 18 and June 20, and up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.

Only private companies with taxable capital assets of $15 million or less are eligible for the current rebate.

The rebate is provided in the form a remittance of federal or provincial income tax.

Corrigall the proposed subsidy is a step in the right direction, but but government will need to be responsive as the pandemic situation continues to change.

The chamber of commerce is working on a survey that it hopes to launch next week to get some idea of how local businesses are coping with the crisis.

"(As) part of the larger Chamber network, the BC Chamber survey, garnering more than 8,000 responses province wide, indicated that a significant number of businesses would be considering layoffs," Corrigall said in his email. "We are encouraging the (businesses) to use #SupportPG on social media so our team can continue building the listing of open business and the mitigation strategies they are using to stay open and provide safe products and services to the community."

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce survey, released on March 18, showed 64 per cent of respondent companies expected to reduce their staff by half or more – and 25 per cent expected to lay off their entire staff. Nine in 10 businesses reported being impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and 83 per cent reported a drop in revenue, business or deal flow.

The full survey results can be found online here https://na2.visioncritical.com/i/stories/shared?id=40a90cac-30f6-4d14-8229-ab830000e348.

There are many grants, loans and financing options available for local businesses, Corrigall said, and the chamber has complied a list of resources for business owners on its website www.pgchamber.bc.ca/covid-19-update.

Small Business B.C. has also complied a list of supports for small businesses in B.C., available online here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/employment-business-and-economic-development/business-management/small-business/covid-19_small_business_supports.pdf.

"It’s important that we support our local businesses now more than ever," Corrigall said. "The recovery of our local economy is contingent on its survival today."

— With files from The Canadian Press

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