Image West Gallery co-owner Courtney Johnson lends a smile beside her melodious door collage of hearts. As of March 20, the Ucluelet gift shop that has been in business for 30 years closed indefinitely. (Nora O’Malley photo)

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

These are extraordinary times for British Columbians, with a public health crisis which is taking a scalpel to the economy and our way of life.

Very few people question the need for social distancing, quarantines, minimal face-to-face contact and a focus on essential services. Few doubt the need to make precious hospital beds available in case there is a sudden uptick of serious COVID-19 cases.

However, the extreme measures now in place, with more likely to come, are damaging the small business community to such a huge extent that it’s likely many businesses will not recover. The business landscape in all communities is likely to be radically different when this is all over.

Governments have rightly focused thus far primarily on public health, and also on ensuring that people who lose their jobs are not left to fend for themselves after their income suddenly vanishes.

In the name of public health, governments have also mandated closure of a majority of businesses. This has led to many owners laying off staff, and a massive increase in applications for unemployment insurance.

Small business operators are trying to preserve cash flow in the face of a huge decline in sales, while still having to pay ongoing expenses such as rent, overhead, income tax, supplier invoices and other costs.

Small businesses are a vital part of all communities, large and small.

READ MORE: Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

They are just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna. They supply essential goods and services, employ local people, and support countless community causes, organizations and activities. They are also key to their suppliers, who in turn employ people and support in their communities.

B.C. residents can do some things now to support small businesses.

They can visit those stories that are open, or shop online or over the phone. Some people are purchasing gift cards for use later. This is a big help – it gives these businesses the cash flow they need to survive. It is also an expression of confidence that their business is worth supporting and expectation that it will be there in the future.

The provincial government is making some cash available to businesses, by easing up on deadlines for required payments of levies like the employer health tax. It is also pushing back dates for property tax payments and PST payments.

The federal government is also extending some tax deadlines and asking lenders to go easy on businesses. On March 27, Ottawa offered a 75 per cent wage subsidy for those who keep employees on the payroll. This is significant, and undoubtedly will help to keep some employees on the payroll, but closure or drastically reduced sales means there is no need for many employees any longer.

Some people have turned to online shopping to fulfill basic needs. This is a sensible step at a time of social distancing, but the most important online shopping right now is with local companies. Amazon and other giant online companies will still be there at the end of this crisis, and they do not make the huge contributions to communities which local business does.

Small businesses need all the help they can get right now.

Governments, customers, their lenders and the community at large can offer that support. Small businesses (and that includes franchisees) have always been there for the community, and they want to be there long into the future.

Now is a vital time for community members to be there for them, in any way possible.

Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor with Black Press Media. Email him at frank.bucholtz@blackpress.ca

BC ViewsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Swoop Airlines. (Contributed)
Daily direct flights between Abbotsford and Toronto start Wednesday

Swoop announces new operations at Toronto Pearson Airport

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness watches the results on election night. The ex-Liberal’s tumultuous campaign and the narrow margin for victory ahead of the mail-in ballot count leaves the future of the riding’s seat in limbo for at least the next week. (Facebook/Laurie Throness)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Future for incumbent Throness uncertain as riding awaits results

Chilliwack-Kent candidate hopeful, resigned waiting on final count

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Trick-or-treat drive-thru takes place at Tradex in Abbotsford

Treats and giveaways handed out at event on Saturday, Oct. 31

The Abbotsford Trail Running Club has transformed the Valley Vertikiller into the Valley Verticuddler for 2020. (Matt Bolam photo)
Abbotsford Trail Running Club transforms Valley Vertikiller into Verticuddler for 2020

Local club has raised close to $3,000 for Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue with event

File Photo
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Agassiz Seniors Community

First declared outbreak in Agassiz-Harrison since pandemic began

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Graphic on promo material for Best Buy Canada’s Tech Wonderland event.
Drive-through ‘Tech Wonderland’ coming to PNE site a few weeks before Christmas

Best Buy Canada-backed ‘holiday’ event to raise money for charity

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of seven-year-old in Langley was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Most Read