EDMONTON — Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition is putting forward a short-term plan to immediately protect Albertans’ jobs and support struggling small businesses, charities, and non-profits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New data released by Statistics Canada on Thursday shows Alberta lost 117,000 jobs in March alone. These figures come as many businesses have been forced to reduce hours or close their doors altogether due to public health orders and decreased demand caused by the ongoing pandemic. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, one-third of Alberta businesses do not have enough cash flow to pay this month’s bills and close to half are facing the threat of permanent closure.
The plan would apply to all small businesses, charities and non-profits and includes:
* An emergency rent subsidy up to a maximum of $10,000.
* A government backstop of up to $7,500 for landlords who agree to
defer rent for three months for businesses during the pandemic. Businesses
will have the ability to pay back the amount owing over the subsequent 18
* Insurance premium freeze retroactive to March 18, 2020 and a 50 per
cent reduction for insurance premiums until December 31, 2020.
* $5,000 to help small businesses adapt to the business environment
created by the pandemic and introduce new technology to continue operating.
* A $10 million guarantee for festivals that support small businesses.
“We are facing an economic crisis,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “We can’t afford to continue to sit back and watch more Albertans lose their livelihoods. We need bold action and we need it now.
“Support from the federal government is still weeks away and the UCP have not done enough to support small businesses or to protect the people who work for them. The plan we have developed would put cash in the hands of small business owners so they can keep their businesses afloat right now, and succeed when conditions return to normal.”
The federal government has announced a 75 per cent wage subsidy plan for businesses, but it still requires legislative introduction and approval from the House of Commons and the Senate. By the time federal support arrives, some businesses will have been closed for almost two months without any revenue. The provincial government has brought in measures to defer taxes, loans, and utility payments, but according to business owners, this isn’t enough to save their businesses and only adds to their debt levels.
“Small businesses are struggling to make ends meet. For a lot of us, revenue has dried up while bills continue to come in,” said Harrison Clark, owner of Murphy’s Mid-Century. “If we want to keep people employed and keep our economy moving, we need the province to step up and support small businesses. We need help keeping the lights on while we adapt to the new normal – and we need it now.”
“The scale of the human and economic impact of COVID-19 is almost unprecedented. We need an unprecedented response if we are going to prevent a catastrophe,” said Notley.
“We’ve heard from businesses they need help now. The more we can do to protect jobs and our economy today, the quicker our province can recover and get back to work.”