NDP requests expansion of supports for Sask. small businesses during pandemic

It’s the beginning of the month and Saskatchewan’s business owners are having to find ways to make their business lease payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to find a way to help small businesses, the Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the province to ease restrictions on the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (SSBEP) program for companies needing to access support.

NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon said it’s time for the government to support businesses that were allowed to reopen but are still dealing with drops in revenues.

“Let’s not let good businesses fail because of bad policy. Let’s fix this program now to make sure it’s inclusive and that it supports all businesses that are in need for those businesses that have had their cash flows and revenues devastated,” stated Wotherspoon on Monday afternoon.

Wotherspoon invited a few business owners to speak during the NDP’s web conference. Among the business owners who shared their experience during the crisis was Nicolette Hunter and Nicole Hunter, who are owners of NICO Lady + Baby.

Nicolette said she is concerned about businesses that initially qualified for the provincial program are now being denied support, while those that still qualify aren’t being encouraged to apply. She discussed how her business was authorized for the program back in April, however they didn’t qualify in May because she was able to reopen in phase two of the Reopen Saskatchewan Plan.

She said the government is hurting businesses that are not being included in the second payment of the SSBEP.

“Whether you’re a phase one business or a phase two business, if you qualified for the first one, you should qualify for the second payment,” explained Hunter.

“When the program was started, there was no indication that there would be a second payment. But to find out there was a second payment and now we’re not eligible because we opened in phase two was really heartbreaking.”

Devon Young, who owns Effective Electric in Regina, mentioned he had to lay off his employees back in March, he applied for the program and met all the criteria except that he is an essential service, which kept him from getting the support.

He said there’s one more staff member with him now and business is slowly picking up, but if he can’t access financial help, it’s not looking good for his company.

“When I’m fully furnished I have eight employees working for me. If things continue to go the way they are, I probably won’t be able to bring them back,” he admitted. “I’m going to be 100 per cent honest with it. I’d have to downsize to just me, and if my costs get too high, I will be forced to close up.”

Young mentioned that he knows other business owners that are looking at possible closure if things don’t turn around soon.

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