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Coronavirus: Small business advocate calls for more support during reopening

Small business advocate calls for more support during reopening
The Prairie Director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says small businesses need more efficient government funding to help reopen after the coronavirus pandemic.

Jonathan Alward, a director with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), is calling for the federal and provincial governments to provide more substantial and accessible relief for small businesses as they reopen after the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I think, looking at these programs and whether they’re good, I think there are a lot of businesses still struggling that probably need a larger loan and need a larger forgivable portion (of those programs),” he told Global News, speaking over Zoom from Winnipeg.

Alward, who oversees the Prairie region for the advocacy group, said the current government programs have been helpful but said some CFIB members have experienced delays and many still need more support.

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He said the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), which Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly announced on Wednesday, had handed out $95 million in interest-free loans to Western businesses, helped one member who hadn’t qualified for any other program.

But Alward said that program, and the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), aren’t enough.

According to the CFIB, 75 per cent of small businesses have fully reopened but only 51 per cent reported having their regular number of staff.

Only 33 per cent are seeing the same revenue they did a year ago.

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“Many are still struggling to survive. We know that it’s the pandemic (that) hit some sectors more than other — arts, recreation, the hospitality sector. … Those sectors in particular are more likely to be considering bankruptcy.”

Alward is calling for the federal and provincial governments to make their programs easier to access, like allowing renters and not just landlords to apply for the CECRA.

He said a large portion of any recipient business owner’s funds goes towards rent, which doesn’t leave much for other costs.

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He also said governments should provide funds to help business owners afford personal protective equipment to keep business and customers safe.