On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced his plans to gradually reopen, as the province is no longer in a state of emergency.
This news comes as a relief to small-business owners who can begin to reopen their doors to customers.
The stay-at-home order will remain in effect in Toronto, York Region and Peel Region until at least Feb. 22.
Financial expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq says reopening small businesses will be a slow process, especially since consumer shopping habits have changed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
She adds that many people are now shopping online and at big box stores.
“Hearts and minds of customers have changed,” she says, adding that getting people back into stores might be the biggest hurdle for small businesses.
“Many of those customers may never come back.”
For small businesses that are struggling, there are both federal and provincial government supports available.
The Canada Emergency Business Account provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits.
There is also a wage subsidy that helps businesses keep or rehire employees, and a rent subsidy that can help with rent or mortgage payments.
Small businesses in Canada struggle to stay afloat
If your small business is located in an area that has experienced tighter restrictions and lockdowns — like Toronto or Montreal — Ahmed-Haq says there are government supports available.
For example, she says small businesses in Ontario can apply for grants through the provincial government if they have been affected by COVID-19.
“Or if they have spent money on things like PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to make sure their staff (are) safe while they deal with customers,” Ahmed-Haq adds.
She says to proceed with caution when applying for supports because some of them are loans that you will have to pay back.
To prepare for another potential lockdown, Ahmed-Haq recommends taking advantage of the government programs that are available and doing the best you can while the economy is open.
“And follow all the protocols. I mean, if we all stay home when we need to, if we all wear masks when we’re outside, if we all stay six feet apart, then the likelihood of a third lockdown will be minimized,” she says.
In January, the Canadian economy lost over 200,000 jobs.
Ahmed-Haq says the decrease in employment is a reflection of the lockdowns that were in place.
Jobs were lost in sectors like hospitality because businesses were forced to shut down.
“Ninety-nine per cent of businesses in Canada are considered a small business,” Ahmed-Haq says, adding that we will see employment rates rise as restrictions are lifted.
Ahmed-Haq says the government has been pushing for companies to provide at least three paid sick days for employees who are not feeling well.
Currently, the federal government offers the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit to people who are sick with COVID-19, people who might have COVID-19 and people advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19.
People who qualify can receive $500 for up to two weeks.
For more information on small businesses reopening and government supports available, watch the full video above.
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