Today NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon called on the provincial government to rapidly expand support for small businesses and self-employed individuals affected by COVID-19 to assist them in doing what’s necessary to limit the spread.
“Small businesses are the heart of our communities and key drivers of our economy. These local leaders are faced with incredible hardship with this unprecedented situation,” said Wotherspoon. “We need to urgently act to support entrepreneurs and local businesses to ensure that they and their employees can get through this terribly difficult time and so that they are in a position to rebuild when we come through this, not permanently shuttered.”
Specifically, Wotherspoon called for the government to immediately implement the following:
- Introduce grants and interest-free loans to small businesses to help them deal with serious cash flow issues because of devastated revenues;
- Introduce changes to the regulation of business leases and mortgages, to allow lease and mortgage payments to be temporarily deferred for up to six months;
- Introduce temporary new protections for small businesses to allow for deferred payments on equipment, vehicle, and other term contracts for up to six months;
- Expand the support announced yesterday for self-employed people, including those in the creative and cultural economy such as performers, artists, photographers and musicians, by broadening the eligibility beyond those required to self-isolate to include those who have lost their income because their contracts and clients have cancelled.
Wotherspoon was joined by Regina small business owners Nicolette and Nicole Hunter, who particularly want to see action from the government to relax lease and mortgage obligations for small businesses.
“As business owners we are being asked by our landlords to go on as ‘business as usual’ when it's anything but business as usual,” said Nicolette Hunter. “All businesses want to help keep COVID-19 infections at a manageable level so that frontline healthcare workers are not overwhelmed. We can only do our part by minimizing hours, minimizing interactions with social distancing and staying home, but that means we are losing revenue.
“That’s why we are calling for a plan to reduce our overhead, including payments to landlords, so that when we all come out of the thick of this, businesses are able to pick up where they left off without further harming Saskatchewan's economy.”
Wotherspoon welcomed the government’s announcement yesterday that a business response unit would be established, as well as the ability to defer utilities and some remittances to government. These were measures that he along with local businesses had been calling for.