Some Ottawa businesses hail, others criticize new government support

Many small businesses welcome the new federal and provincial support programs announced Wednesday, but others say the programs are not inclusive enough, provide adequate support, or are unfairly enforced.

CBC Ottawa spoke to a number of local businesses affected by the 50% capacity restrictions that took effect on Sunday. A ranger of businesses, including restaurants, gyms and shopping malls, was hit.

“Obviously it’s not the ideal situation in general, but of course it will help our business,” said Claudia Hernández, whose family owns the traditional Mexican restaurant Casa Mexico in Ottawa. “It’s a give and take situation right now.”

The federal government announced at a press conference on Wednesday that it was expanding access to financial aid in the event of a pandemic, which will apply retroactively from December 19 to February 12, 2022.

The government has revised what it considers a “lockdown” to include areas where domestic capacity has been restricted by 50% or more.

Claudia Hernández, pictured alongside her parents Marco Hernández and Silvia Gomez, explains that December is an important time of year for restaurant Casa Mexico. (Submitted by Claudia Hernandez)

In these areas, employees who have lost more than half of their income will be eligible for the Canadian Worker Lockdown Benefit of $ 300 per week, and employers who have experienced a drop in income of at least 25% can apply. wage subsidies at Local Lockdown. Program.

The Ontario government also announced business supports on Wednesday, covering up to 50% of property taxes and energy costs for qualifying businesses.

Difficult time of the year

Hernández said the restrictions – and now the financial support – came at a crucial time of year for his restaurant.

“The holidays are really important,” she said. “We expected that, throughout the pandemic, December would be a good month. With the new restrictions, we have to adjust everything.”

Michael Wood, an Ottawa-based business advocate, said the restaurants he spoke to face a 10-to-one cancellation rate for new reservations.

“Many restaurant owners will tell you that the third week in December is one of the busiest and most profitable weeks of the year,” said Wood.

He added that the next three months of the year are “tough” times for retail and hospitality, meaning capacity restrictions hit retail and hospitality businesses for a period of time. lucrative.

“These capacity restrictions are coming right now, making it very, very difficult for small businesses,” he said.

Changes to program eligibility, loans requested

Ontario NDP finance critic Katherine Fife called for a moratorium on evictions as well as direct subsidies for small businesses in a press release on Wednesday.

Wood said he would like the supports to cover businesses launched during the pandemic, which are currently not eligible for government programs.

He added that some companies he spoke to hoped the federal government would extend the repayment timeline for the Canada Business Emergency Account loan program or turn it into a grant that does not require repayment.

Not all business owners agreed.

Everett Sloan, owner of Crossfit Bytown, said the only government support he took during the pandemic was the federal rent subsidy during the initial lockdowns.

He said he does not support the government turning loans into grants because it would be unfair for companies like his that choose not to take the money in the first place.

“It will be very different for each business,” Sloan said. “If you borrow money – out of honor, you have to pay it back.”

Wood said every “little” piece of support helps businesses struggling to make these payments.

“We are always grateful,” he said. “However, it may take more for some small businesses to survive.”

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