As people fall through the cracks, should relief payments be universal?
VICTORIA, B.C. -- At Boardwalk Cafe and Games in Abbotsford, customers come in to play games, often taking a risk to see if they can come out on top. But there’s one game on the the best-seller list these days that's particularly timely, and it emphasizes cooperation.
"Pandemic is pretty hot right now,” said shop owner Darin Graham.
The board game is all about working together to do what many people can probably guess from the name— fight a global pandemic.
"From a business standpoint, we have three or four distributors that we get all of our games from that are in Quebec in Ontario that have all been shut down because they're not essential services, so that's kind of affecting our business and what we're able to get available to us," said Graham.
If you think that’s a run of bad luck, it’s following what Graham’s been experiencing as a small business owner in the middle of a real-life pandemic.
"It seems like everything that is made available to us, we somehow slip by," he said.
In mid-March, Graham laid off four staff members after sales dropped. He said he doesn’t qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, because you need $5,000 in taxable income in 2019. Graham started his business three years ago and said he doesn’t meet that minimum.
"As a new business owner, we don’t always have the luxury of getting a salary all the time."
As for those loans for small businesses? He said his payroll is a few thousand dollars short of him qualifying, and as a small business owner - he won’t get EI.
On the provincial side, you need to qualify for federal programs, so that $1,000 payment is out. Plus, he lives in a co-op, not a rental, so there’s no relief there. His family is eligible for a bump in a federal child benefit, and he’ll get a break on hydro. He joked the amount would be enough for half a meal on Skip the Dishes.
CTV News asked the premier about the provincial $5 billion dollar aid plan that is meant to fill gaps left by federal programs. The premier said help is on the way from both federal and provincial governments.
"We have put our task in front of us to make sure that as people go through the federal process, don't find a place for themselves, that they can come to the province and seek redress of some kind," said Premier John Horgan at a press conference in Victoria.
Graham is thankful for the help being offered, and recognizes programs have been developed relatively quickly. Yet, he said timing is a concern for him. One suggestion he has-- a universal income for all residents.
"Who knows what what the right amount is, but I think that it's easier to just make sure that everyone is taken care of and then figure it out later," he said.
Graham said he’s hopeful changes will be made, as he noted tweaks have already been made to federal programs. For now, he’s focused on other things.
"I get lots of time with my family right now so that’s good."