‘I’ll have nothing’: Winnipeggers grateful for new COVID-19 benefits but scared about long-term prospects

By | April 6, 2020

Winnipeggers who are applying for emergency income support benefits this week say they’re grateful for the help, but anxious about what will happen to them once the money runs out. 

Monday is the first day that Canadians can apply for the Canada emergency response benefit, which offers support for people who have stopped working due to the pandemic, including those who are not eligible for employment insurance, contract employees and freelancers.

Cassandra Woolover, a Métis small-business owner, is applying for the benefit. 

Sisters Michele Zubrin, left, and Angie Zubrin had to close their small business in because of COVID-19. Michele says the Canada emergency response benefit will help her personal finances in the short term, but she worries about what the future holds. (Submitted by Michele Zubrin )

She was hoping to continue running a daycare out of her apartment to help health-care workers and other essential service workers, but has lost that income after her building decided to ban all visitors. 

“Which really is discouraging for me, because I would love to help out more and I would love to not lose a job,” she said. 

“It’s kind of coming at two angles here, where I’ve lost two opportunities to continue working.”

Her new, Metis-inspired clothing line, Metis Branded, is also on hold without the bank loans or grants she planned to apply for. 

“The second COVID-19 happened, I was like, ‘There’s no way anyone is going to give me money to run a business.’ ” 

She decided to shut down her website because she couldn’t afford to pay for it and buy groceries. 

She applied for the emergency benefit as soon as the website was live. The process was very easy, she said. 

The money will help her pay her bills in the short term, but she’s worried about the long term. 

As of right now, the benefits are only going to be available for four months. 

“Come July, I’ll have nothing,” she said. 

‘Scary situation’

Michele Zubrin is in a similar situation. 

Her small business, the Painter’s Café, which she runs with her sister Angie, is closed because of COVID-19. She doubts she’ll be able to afford to reopen once the pandemic is over. 

“When I look at it in the long run … it’s going to take months and months in order to catch up with all the payments,” she said. 

“Us small businesses, especially sole proprietors, we’re done.”

The CERB will help her make ends meet for the time being, but she, too, is worried about what will happen when those benefits run out. 

“I’m going to be okay for about the four months, but then what? Am I going to live in my truck?” she said. 

“Its a very, very scary situation that all of us are in.”

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