Business Community Working Towards Recovery Phase but Immediate Risks Remain

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Businesses have been particularly hard hit from the widespread COVID-19 pandemic and are continuing to work closely with various levels of government to address the challenges of today and what an economic recovery could look like.

On Tuesday, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) hosted a roundtable with the Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Victor Fedeli about the province’s COVID-19 response and recovery plans.

The topics of discussion included the business community’s immediate needs and areas that the Government of Ontario should consider regarding the province’s economic recovery.  The OCC has developed an internal COVID-19 Working Group to collect the insights from a variety of industries across Ontario.

“Businesses from coast to coast have stepped up to deliver solutions and divert resources to support immediate needs during this crisis,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.  “Input, insights and participation from Ontario business will be critical for our economic recovery.  Temporary measures will need to be supplemented with foundational reforms as we rebuild our future.”

Minister Fedeli recognized the importance of the business community and the critical role they play in supporting the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee.  The committee was struck on April 9 and is composed of a number Ontario’s cabinet members representing various aspects of the government.

“While we focus our energy and resources on defeating COVID-19, we also need to plan for an economic recovery,” said Minister Fedeli.  “With support and input from the business community, the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee will get our economy moving again – with a focus on jobs and growth, and protecting our province from future pandemics.

While the business community is working with various governments on what an economic recovery would look like, the day-to-day challenges are still very much at the forefront for many small business owners.

CFIB President Dan Kelly told BNN Bloomberg that the Government of Canada took too long to roll out emergency support programs and as a result, many companies won’t survive.  CFIB pegged the level of permanent small business closures across Canada in the tens of thousands and that 80% of small and medium firms are closed or operating at reduced capacity because of the pandemic.  They’ve also recently said that over half of small businesses in Canada will not be able to pay May’s rent.

For its part, the Government of Canada announced a new Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program on April 16 that is aimed at helping small businesses cover their rents for April, May and June.  The program seeks to provide loans, including loans that will not need to be repaid, to commercial property owners that will in turn provide lower rents or forgo rent altogether.

In Niagara, a survey of over 2600 local businesses was published earlier this month by the Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team showing businesses across the entire region have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly those in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, food service and retail trade sectors.  The results showed that the businesses surveyed estimated a loss of $1.4 billion if COVID-19 is not resolved within a 12-month period.

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