Today, with another month of business lease payments coming due, NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon called on the provincial government to act quickly to ease restrictions on the province’s Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency payment program that leave many struggling businesses unable to access needed support. Specifically, Wotherspoon questioned the government’s refusal to support businesses that are allowed to reopen but are still facing a massive drop in revenues, on top of their earlier refusal to support businesses that hadn’t been forced to close in March but had seen a major loss in revenue.
“Too many good businesses that need support are being let down by this government’s narrow criteria,” said Wotherspoon. “This crisis has hit businesses hard, and whether you’re an electrician who saw your work dry up or a retail owner who’s opening now but seeing almost no one come through the door, you deserve support right now. That’s our message to the government: base the support on need, and don’t let good businesses fail because of bad policy.”
Wotherspoon was joined by a number of Saskatchewan small business owners who have found themselves unable to lean on provincial support to make up for a steep loss in revenue. Electrician Devon Young saw his company’s revenue dry up as pandemic measures took hold.
“For me, this is a matter of fairness,” said Young. “The fact that I could keep my doors open shouldn’t have disqualified me from accessing the support available to other businesses if my revenue dropped to zero. We’re climbing back now, but it’s been a rough road.”
Nicolette Hunter, co-owner of Nico Lady + Baby with her sister-in-law and business partner Nicole Hunter, is concerned that even businesses that initially qualified are now being denied support, while those that still qualify aren’t being encouraged to apply. Her business qualified for support in April but doesn’t qualify in May because she’s able to reopen as part of phase two.
“A lot of Saskatchewan businesses, including ours, are reopening their doors without any guarantee that customers will show up, and now we’re being told that the support won’t be there if we need it. Business owners across the province did their part by shutting their doors; I think the province has a responsibility to ensure that we can open them again and keep them open.