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Coronavirus: Third of Canadian small businesses fear imminent closure without help, survey says

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A new survey says as many as a third of Canadian small businesses could close from the COVID-19 crisis. Richard Zussman reports. – Mar 24, 2020

One in three businesses in Canada say they cannot survive the current coronavirus pandemic conditions for more than a month, according to a new survey.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 60 per cent of small businesses have seen a significant drop in sales, with more than a third reporting a reduction greater than 75 per cent.

“More than half of small firms have begun laying off staff, with a quarter reporting they have already been forced to lay off their entire workforce,” president Dan Kelly said.

“At this rate, the only way to prevent massive additional unemployment is for government to introduce a much larger wage subsidy program.”

READ MORE: B.C. nightclubs and bars ordered closed amid coronavirus

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The small-business advocacy group surveyed nearly 11,000 small business owners.

According to the results, the average cost of the outbreak for affected businesses has also doubled since last week to $136,000.

The organization is proposing a job-retention program that would subsidize wages of employers who are able to retain staff. This would cover at least 75 per cent of wages for all employers, up to a cap of $5,000 per worker per month, and include people who are self-employed and small-business owners.

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The B.C. government introduced a $5-billion aid package on Monday to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19, including $2.2 billion for businesses in the form of the deferral of tax payments.

“On top of the 930,000 new Employment Insurance applications filed last week across Canada, many small business will be forced to make additional layoff decisions in the next few days,” Kelly said.

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“Announcing a wage subsidy now will protect many jobs and keep employees connected to their employers, helping to speed the recovery when the COVID-19 emergency phase is over.”

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The B.C. government has also announced a $1,000 benefit for all people who are self-employed and have lost work, or who qualify for employment insurance or the new federal wage support programs.