With most of us cloistered behind closed doors these days, many businesses in Prince George are trying to figure out how to keep their doors open.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit virtually every segment of society and businesses are definitely struggling as society, as a whole, tries to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow the spread of the epidemic.
“It challenging right now and there’s no denying that,” said Todd Corrigall, CEO of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for local business. “The more government grants and subsidies that become available, the better it will be for everybody. When we start talking about recovery, we need businesses and people to be employed for there to be any recovery.”
Ottawa continues to unveil aid packages for workers affected the pandemic and for businesses affected by it as well. It had announced it would subsidize up to 10 per cent of workers’ salaries that are affected. That was subsequently raised to 75 per cent.
“The increase in the wage subsidy (from 10 per cent to 75 per cent) was something that Perrin Beatty and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Business have been advocating to government, so that’s encouraging to see they’re listening to organizations that are engaged on a day-to-day basis with the business community,” he said.
He said Ottawa is definitely working hard to lessen the impact for Canadians.
“They’re recognizing that survival is the most important point right now, but they’re also recognizing that they’re going to have to put significant resources behind the recovery processes,” he said.
Locally, the Chamber has doing what it can to help local businesses.
“When it started looking like the climate for business was going to change, about March 19, we developed two pages off our website,” Corrigall said. “The first being a bit of portal to any of the government loans, grants, subsidies … any of the mitigation strategies that some of the larger organizations like MNP and KPMG were putting out there.”
One of those is a KPMG webinar on COVID-19 set for April 2.
The page also includes some toolkits that business owners can download and use as they navigate these difficult times.
“The idea was let’s get a one-stop shop for people who are looking for information,” he said. “That page continues to be updated as information changes.”
The second page the Chamber developed was a page of businesses staying open through the COVID-19 pandemic and any of the strategies they’ve put in place to help cope.
“Some people are offering curbside pick-up, some people are offering delivery, a lot of people have adjusted their hours of service,” he said. “It’s really to keep residents informed on who’s open, when they’re open, and what you can do to access those products and services.”
The Chamber has also been sending out surveys to businesses to track how businesses are doing. The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/pgchamber-COVID-19
The Chamber has also been impacted as it cancelled its annual general meeting, which is usually held at this time of year. The Chamber is a non-profit organization that relies on memberships and fundraising to survive, like all other non-profit organizations.
“I think we have to look at charities and not-for-profits, as a whole, in our community and what that looks like coming out it,” he said. “The question about the survivability of a not-for-profit and a charity beyond this is a huge question too.”
He added it wouldn’t surprise him if the federal government starts developing one-off strategies for such groups and organizations.
His advice to businesses is to let the Chamber know what you’re doing.
“Our message is keep us informed with what’s happening with your business,” Corrigall said. “Let us know what supports we can provide, fill out the surveys, and engage on any subsidy, grant or loan that you can take that doesn’t hinder your business in any way.”
And, if you’re posting anything online, use the hashtag #supportPG