OLDS — Olds & District Chamber of Commerce president Cassidy Kirsch is guardedly optimistic that supports announced by the federal and provincial governments as well as the town will enable local businesses to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think that there are a lot of parties working together to make sure that all opportunities that can be available are available. But as we all know, it’s really hard to predict the future right now and what’s going to be coming down our way,” Kirsch said during an interview.
On April 19, federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced several measures in the federal budget to help businesses, workers and families make it through the pandemic.
For example, business and income support measures like wage and rent subsidies will be extended into the fall. However, that support will gradually be decreased starting in July, as more and more Canadians are vaccinated.
The federal government says as the wage subsidy decreases, the Canada Recovery Hiring Program will kick in to offset the cost of increasing worker hours or hiring additional staff as businesses reopen.
Meanwhile, the Alberta government is providing an additional $10,000 to small and medium-sized businesses that have seen their revenue fall sharply as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Jason Kenney and Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer announced that $120 million is being set aside to bolster existing supports for businesses.
Businesses that prove that their revenue has fallen by 60 per cent will be eligible to for a grant of 15 per cent of their typical monthly income, up to a maximum of $10,000.
The grants can be used for things like covering the cost of personal protective equipment, paying rent or staff salaries.
That support is available to companies with fewer than 500 employees and employers don’t have to repay it.
Kirsch said the new hiring incentive and the Canadian Recovery Hiring Plan do have the potential to help companies remain in business during the summer.
But she said one flaw is that as she understands it, new businesses are still ineligible for that assistance.
"Based on previous promises last May, we were looking to see a little bit more support for businesses that have opened since March, 2020,” she said.
On the other hand, Kirsch said the feds are working on cutting merchants’ credit card fees. She described that as “a move that will help businesses save on costly transactions.”
Kirsch liked the support announced by the province as well.
She advised local business owners to check with their accountants to see if any of the latest announcements could help their bottom line.
Kirsch was also pleased with the support from the town – particularly the effort to fast-track approval of outdoor patios for restaurants and bars.
“It was a huge move that we’re grateful for and we know that a lot of businesses and community members who enjoy going out are grateful for as well,” she said.
Kirsch said the Chamber will continue to monitor supports from all levels of government.
“We are actively looking forward to receiving further information from both governments and the town on programs that continue to roll out or continue to be available for businesses,” she said.