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'I don't know what to do': Uncertainty for businesses as Ottawa announces more aid
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. -- The federal government has announced new measures aimed at supporting small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, including government-backed loans and a much higher wage subsidy. However, there is still uncertainty around when and how that help will materialize.
New Westminster restaurant owner Alejandro Diaz told CTV News Vancouver he’s gone from having a business with 40 employees to one with just two or three people working.
“So, we have 37 people without a job,” Diaz said. “They have to pay rent, they have to pay their student loans, they have families. I have a family. I don’t know what to do.”
On Friday, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau announced additional measures aimed at helping small businesses keep going, and also keep their workers.
“Last week, we had announced that we would cover ten percent of wages, but it’s becoming clear we need to do more. Much more,” Trudeau said.
The wage subsidy for worker’s salaries has now increased to 75 per cent, and will back-date to March 15. Banks will offer small businesses government-backed loans of up to $40,000, with no interest for the first year. If the amount is repaid by the end of 2022, up to $10,000 will be forgiven. HST and GST payments are also being deferred to June.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives senior economist Marc Lee said it’s a move in the right direction.
“Really, the object of public policy right now is to prevent an outright depression,” Lee said.
However, he added there are still questions around which businesses will qualify.
“We’re still trying to figure out a lot of those nitty gritty details,” Lee said.
Diaz said even with a wage subsidy, his restaurant has no money coming in, with rent and salaries still to pay.
“They are great intentions, but unfortunately intentions don’t pay the bills,” Diaz said. “We don’t know when that money’s going to come, if it comes.”
Diaz, who also owns another, newer restaurant, said he already looked into accessing some funds made available through the Business Development Bank of Canada, but was told his other establishment wouldn’t qualify because it’s been operating for less than two years. As for his older restaurant, El Santo, he said he was told it could take anywhere from a month to a month and a half to get an answer.
“Unfortunately, they have a big workload, and we haven’t heard back,” Diaz said.
In the meantime, Diaz said he’s remaining hopeful, but what will happen in the coming weeks remains uncertain.
“At the restaurant ... they are not just staff members, it’s like a little family,” Diaz said. “I’m worried about my family.”