As Omicron bears down on all parts of the country, it has prompted many governments to set more restrictions on businesses, including in New Brunswick. But that is creating a lot of problems for industries already battered by the impacts of COVID-19 .
In New Brunswick, the province moves to Level 2 of the Winter Action Plan just after Christmas but the federal government has stepped in to assist businesses as restrictions tighten to slow the spread.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced adjustments to Bill C-2, otherwise known as the Local Lockdown Program, so that those experiencing capacity limits instead of lockdowns could get funding.
It expanded to allow assistance for any business location or related activities to be limited by 50 per cent or more and for a loss of revenue of 25 per cent without a historical requirement of 12-month revenue decline.
But the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses says it is a dark time for owners.
“They have long since did every pivot imaginable, borrowed against their homes, borrowed from their retirement savings. These are really worrisome times. Even before the Omicron threat, only a third of Canadian businesses across Canada were at a normal level of sales,” said CFIB CEO Dan Kelly in an interview Thursday.
He said small firms have been put through the ringer. Kelly said the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally impacted smaller business because bigger retails can escape some of the restrictions and absorb some of the losses easier.
But he said the impact goes beyond the bottom line.
Entrepreneurs, legacy businesses and owners are struggling with mental health issues.
“In about a dozen of those, business owners are telling us that they are actually considering taking their own lives, that’s how dark this is,” he said in an interview Thursday.
“I’ve talked on the phone with veteran business owners that have been around for 25, 30 years who are in tears seeing their business crumble in their fingers. They were counting on the sale of their business to fund their retirement but now the business is worthless.
“These are really serious issues.”
In the end, Kelly said the support is a good start but many have been incomplete.
Overall, he said Omicron and restrictions are driving people away from in-person consumerism. It’s a domino effect, he said, and with that happening, all levels of government need to step up to help.