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Weeks to bankruptcy because of coronavirus pandemic, small businesses ask feds for more help

Last Updated Mar 26, 2020 at 10:17 am EDT

(File Photo)

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Imagine 6 months or a year from now, when millions of Canadians emerge from isolation and quarantine, only to find boarded up windows at the coffee shop on the way to work, or that the neighbourhood pub is really gone forever.

Across Canada, 15,000 businesses have signed on to a petition calling on the federal government to help as many of them survive the global coronavirus pandemic as possible. About 6,500 of those firms are in British Columbia.

“We’ve paused our businesses to protect our communities’ health. Government needs to help us pause our expenses so we’re still in business when it’s time to restart the economy,” says the petition’s primer.

It was assembled by Erin Millar, owner and founder of independent media company, The Discourse. It began as a call to action to help women-owned businesses weather the storm, but it soon evolved into a call for help from thousands in every sector.

She and other organizers and supporters say most small businesses simply won’t survive social distancing.

“It’s worth taking a moment to define local businesses. These are daycares, barbers, coffee shops and restaurants, these are not tech startups,” she writes in an op-ed, adding tech companies already have the ear of the federal government.

“The owners of local businesses are often only making enough to pay themselves a salary. They have personally guaranteed their business loans, and their property leases (which can run up to 10 years), often with their homes, cars and whatever retirement income they may have.”

“Let that last sentence sink in. When a small local business goes under, the owner cannot simply walk away,” she says.

For Teara Fraser, founder and CEO of Iskwew Air, the first Indigenous, woman-owned airline in Canada, there’s a lot at stake.

“My plane is on the ground as a result of collapsing tourism. As the first Indigenous woman-owned airline in Canada, I am heartbroken to think about the message it will send to Indigenous young women and aspiring entrepreneurs if I don’t make it.”

Some businesses say they will likely be able to survive until June but others see themselves running out of cashflow before rent is due on April 1.

The owner of Vancouver’s Sriracha Revolver Hot Sauce says they cannot get what they need to produce their product, which no one is buying at this point in time.

“My supply chain has crumbled. My orders have stalled. All my markets and events have been cancelled so I cannot sell my existing stock.”

Independent and small owner-operators have three urgent calls to action which include relief on rent, debt and wages, but have also compiled a number of recommendations for federal Minister of Small Business, Mary Ng.