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‘No end day in sight’: B.C. businesses await financial support as COVID shutdowns begin

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 restrictions: For small businesses, help can’t come soon enough'
COVID-19 restrictions: For small businesses, help can’t come soon enough
WATCH: A professional dancer and instructor is facing a double-whammy because of measures meant to contain the spread of COVID-19. Portia Favro can't conduct her dance classes — despite having paid her January studio rent in advance — and she's concerned she won't be allowed to perform. Emad Agahi reports – Dec 22, 2021

Portia Favro has danced across a Vancouver studio for what may be the last time for several weeks.

Like other fitness and movement facilities, the Vancouver Burlesque Company studio must close under new public health restrictions that take effect at midnight on Wednesday.

“How would you feel if you lost 100 per cent of your livelihood in less than 24 hours, with no end day in sight?” the instructor and performer said in an interview.

“This one comes out of left field, for sure.”

On Tuesday, public health officials announced a new set of COVID-19 closures aimed at curbing the spread of the highly-mutated and infectious Omicron variant.

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Bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centres and dance studios must shutter until Jan. 18 at the earliest.

The province promised financial support for those businesses at the same time, but details have yet to be released.

“Basically they did the announcement and just went into talking about rapid tests,” said Favro.

“A lot of us have already pre-paid for our January studio space and we’re not going to receive that financial compensation back.”

Click to play video: 'Ottawa announces help for businesses hurt by COVID restrictions'
Ottawa announces help for businesses hurt by COVID restrictions

Shirley Bond, interim leader of the Official Opposition BC Liberals, said she understands the need for new restrictions, but said the province should have been prepared with business supports prior to the announcement.

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“We were very disappointed to see the minister not provide certainty for small businesses at the same time that new restrictions were put in place,” she told Global News.

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“Saying that we’re going to think about it, it’s coming soon, really causes more anxiety and small businesses deserve more than that.”

The federal government announced its support package for businesses on Wednesday, expanding eligibility for its Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit to workers whose place of employment has been slapped with capacity-limiting restrictions of 50 per cent or more.

The Local Lockdown Program, which includes rent and wage subsidies, will also expand to include any employers that are subject to restrictions that cap their capacity at 50 per cent or more.

Click to play video: 'Hold the drinks, and the dancing: B.C. orders bars and nightclubs to shut down'
Hold the drinks, and the dancing: B.C. orders bars and nightclubs to shut down

The B.C. government has indicated an announcement could come before Dec. 25 — possibly as early as Thursday.

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Several fitness facility owners have told Global News they’ve never had a positive COVID-19 case in their spaces, and enforce strict health protocols to keep everyone safe, including double-vaccination.

The closures, they say, are both disheartening and confusing.

“Why are we all being penalized for maybe the actions of a few individuals that are not with the program?” asked Favro.

Brenda Dhillon, owner of the SpinHouse Cycling Studio in Fleetwood, said participants in their final classes Wednesday morning were sad to hear about the closures, and rely on the facility for a sense of community and support.

“There was a lot of frustration in the studio,” said Dhillon.

“It’s hard to digest, it’s hard to go into for a third time after you’ve already come out of two very stressful shutdowns, unable to predict the future or know if you’re going to be able to continue operating.”

Dhillon said her studio has accessed COVID-19 rent subsidies in the past and is anxiously awaiting news of additional supports from the B.C. government.

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