A dozen groups representing more than 4,000 businesses in Nova Scotia are calling for more financial help from the province as they struggle under tightened restrictions aimed at controlling COVID-19 infections.
As the COVID-19 case count in the province skyrockets, many small businesses were forced to shut their doors and turn to delivery and curbside pickup.
While businesses had to make a similar pivot during first-wave restrictions a year ago, Sue Uteck, the executive director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association, said the third wave of the pandemic is much different.
“It’s a lot more fearful for the consumer,” she said. “They’re not really coming out, getting that shopping online, or deliveries for restaurants. The numbers aren’t there and that’s why the request is out.”
Uteck’s association, which represents more than 200 businesses in the Spring Garden Road area of Halifax, was one of 12 business improvement districts who called for more help in a news release issued Friday morning.
Other groups joining the call for help include:
- the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission
- the Downtown Halifax Business Commission
- the Downtown Truro Partnership
- the Kentville Business Community
- the North End Business Association
- the Porters Lake Business Association
- the Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association
- the Sackville Business Association
- the Spryfield Business Association
- the Sydney Downtown Development Association, and
- The Village On Main Community Improvement District.
Those groups called for a “significant increase” to the Small Business Impact Grant, which was announced earlier in the week to support businesses that were forced to shut down.
Eligible businesses can receive a one-time grant of up to 15 per cent of their sales revenue from either April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000.
Uteck said in some cases, even the maximum amount wouldn’t cover the rent.
“When your power bill is $2,000 and you’re only going to get $1,000, you’re just continuously running behind the eight-ball,” she said.
“You’re often hearing from businesses, ‘If I could sell right now and get out I would, but I can’t.’”
There is also a Small Business Real Property Tax Rebate Program, but that only applies to places like salons and tattoo shops, and doesn’t apply to retail stores. The business groups are asking for that to change as well.
‘A blow to the gut’
In a release, the Nova Scotia Small Business Affiliation, which represents the interests of small businesses in Nova Scotia, said it “extends its full support to the provincial government’s decision to close their doors.”
“However, the novelty related to curbside pickup, gift cards and waiting in lines for take-out from the first and second lockdown, have virtually disappeared,” it said.
“Given the context that Small Business has not had an opportunity with a strong summer season to recoup their losses from the start of the pandemic, the current shutdown is a blow to the gut when businesses are on their knees.”
The Small Business Affiliation is calling for a flat payment of $10,000 to every business “to ensure businesses can pay their property taxes, fees, rent, utilities, payroll and suppliers.”
Following the announcement of the grant this week, Minister of Inclusive Economic Growth Labi Kousoulis said he realizes for some the grant won’t be enough, but it will help others.
Uteck said she understands the province has “competing priorities,” and she wants to work with the government to find a solution to this problem.
But in the end, she said it’s the vaccination program that will help the most with the economic recovery.
“We know this could be a much better collaborative relationship between the businesses and government, and it’s up to all of us to do our part,” she said.
“But more importantly, if you want to support small business, go get vaccinated.”