The South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce is calling on the federal government to expand its COVID-19-related supports to include newly opened businesses along with those that existed before the start of the pandemic.
In a May 18 letter to Mary Ng, minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, the Chamber urges the Canadian government to extend its COVID-19 financial aid programs to businesses that have opened within the past 18 months and are not currently eligible for funding.
“We are hearing from many businesses that have tried to apply for different programs, only to be denied because they do not have comparable financials from 12 months prior,” reads the letter signed by Patricia Lapena, president of the board of directors, and Executive Director Ritu Khanna.
“As you can appreciate, opening a new business takes a considerable amount of planning, financial resources and perseverance in the best of times,” the letter continues. “To open a business in the midst of a global pandemic exponentially exacerbates all requirements.”
The letter makes reference to a number of new ventures in South Surrey and White Rock that are struggling to get off the ground, but singles out Delight Indian Bistro, which opened in June 2020 after its owners invested more than $1 million, as being “a prime example” of how the omission is affecting small businesses.
Delight’s general manager, Aayush Arora, spoke to the Peace Arch News in early April about the challenges the South Surrey restaurant has faced in trying to access grant money offered to other, similar businesses in Canada.
Since the business didn’t have a payroll in 2019, they were excluded from receiving the federal government wage subsidy program, rental support, and government loans, Arora said.
“It excludes people like us who opened their business right in the middle of the pandemic who probably need, if not the same amount, even more than what an existing business needs. You’re still trying to make a name out there,” Arora said.
On April 8, the same week Arora spoke with PAN, the provincial government announced $50 million in ‘circuit breaker’ grants to help B.C. businesses that opened by or before Feb. 1, 2021.
The one-time grants – of $20,000 each – were offered to help businesses pay fixed costs, including employee wages, rent and insurance, during the extended period of tightened COVID-19 restrictions, which ended on Tuesday (May 25).
In its request that the federal government expand its financial aid programs, the Chamber asks that eligibility be adjusted to include both new and newly expanded businesses that can demonstrate their project was non-reversible at the outset of the pandemic, and that it include adjusted back pay to March 15, 2020 of both CEWS (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy) and CERS (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy).
“We appreciate how much time and funds the government has invested in supporting small businesses across the country,” the letter concludes.
“We ask that you support the entrepreneurs who should not be penalized due to timing of an ill-fated global pandemic.”
– files from Aaron Hinks