Small businesses call on provincial government for more help during COVID-19

By | April 8, 2020

WINNIPEG — Small business owners are asking the provincial government for help to keep them afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Wednesday afternoon, over 3,000 people had signed a petition that is being sent to Premier Brian Pallister. The petition is asking Pallister to create a lease subsidy program for small businesses.

Melina Elliott, who helped create the petition and is the co-founder of Body Measure in Winnipeg, said even though the federal government has offered support for businesses, her business does not qualify.

“We do not meet the requirements that have been put in place for the relief measures,” said Elliott.

She said her and her co-founder just opened a second location in Newmarket, Ont., and because of the virus both locations had to be closed down and they are making zero income. Elliott added that her business does not qualify for the federal government relief because they did not pay out $50,000 in salary in 2019.

“Because we are owner/operators, like many business owners, we pay ourselves through dividends as opposed to salary, which is very customary. Then we were only in business for two months in Ontario where we were paying staff, so we had only actually paid out about $20,000 in salary, in payroll in 2019.”

Elliott said she has talked to several other small business owners and they have said the hardest part they are dealing with right now is still having to pay their lease or rent every month.

Matt Allard, Winnipeg city councillor for St. Boniface, said he is asking landlords to pass off the savings to tenants now that the city has voted to defer business and property taxes.

“In my council speech, when I was talking about this issue I did say ‘we are all in this together’ if there is a possibility of clemency from landlords to tenants, and if some of those savings can be passed onto the tenants, certainly I would be encouraging that,” said Allard.

Elliott said while every little bit helps, she feels that having landlords passing on those savings to tenants would just be “passing the buck.”

“The landlords, they have bills as well, and they have probably loans that need to be repaid and all these other things, so they have their own expenses. You’re just kind of moving it down the line,” said Elliott, adding that it is the government’s turn to step up.

She says that other provinces have stepped up and put measures in place and the same should be done in Manitoba.

Elliott said small businesses are extremely important to the province’s and country’s economy and she feels they will be important in how Manitoba and Canada bounce back from this pandemic.

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