Small business owners in Saanich North and the Islands, and their entrepreneurial counterparts in every part of the country, have been clear – without financial support many of them face a dire future due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal and provincial governments have heard the message. This week they began announcing programs to help the small business community through this difficult time.
The problem for the many operators I have spoken with, is cash flow. The knock on effect of losing weeks of revenue while the bills continue to pile up is a problem now and a bigger problem later. Without clarity on what the next weeks and months will look like, it’s next to impossible for business owners to identify their next steps.
The support measures announced for individuals are a rapid response to fill the financial void created when the small business they worked for were forced to shutter due to the public health and safety orders requiring physical distancing and self-isolation.
Now more than ever we are seeing the incredible contribution of small businesses to our communities and our economy. Often overlooked or spoken to in bureaucratic platitudes while the government pumps billions of dollars into other sectors, small businesses in British Columbia contributes a third of our provincial gross domestic product.
More than 500,000 small enterprises account for 44% of the total employment and $15 billion in international exports for British Columbia. These are numbers not to be trifled with.
So it is welcome news that programs from the provincial and federal governments have now begun rolling out to this critical sector of our economy. A support line and hub hosted by Small Business BC will now provide a central location for owners to get information and advice. New measures to reduce the property tax bill by 25% and the extension of deadlines to give businesses and property owners more time to pay, offer limited relief. In addition, the province is providing local governments increased borrowing tools and relaxing rules around balanced budgets to offset the impacts of dramatic decreases in property tax revenue, their primary source of income.
It’s hard to quantify the extent of the impact of local entrepreneurial activity. It’s more than just financial; although those numbers are impressive, the social and cultural contributions are enormous. Whether it is the arts, food production and processing, or the proprietors that offer the goods and services in our villages, towns and cities, small businesses are the heartbeat of our community.
Everything is evolving. As we have seen with other announcements to date, government officials have been listening, they are coordinating across jurisdictions and they are open to adapting their programs to ensure they are as effective as possible.
The collective effort of employers, employees, consumer and business advocates and elected officials raising and amplifying the concerns and advice, has informed this first phase of support initiatives. However, while the government has largely offered more debt and deferrals there is nothing yet to address the cash flow issues I have consistently heard about.
We must continue to work together to ensure that as governments move from emergency action to recovery, that the small business community is not overlooked.
Please continue to share your story with me and my colleagues so that the governments develop effective programs that actually support you and your business the way you need to be supported.
Send me an email or add it to the comment section of this post.