January 15th, 2021

Business Beat: Supporting a Local First Holiday Season amid challenging times

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on December 17, 2020.

The Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce has been steadily involved in assisting businesses with supports and information since the start of the pandemic and particularly now with the new announcements on Dec. 8.

The closures and reduced capacity that took effect Dec. 17 will inevitably impact many businesses and will create significant challenges, as we know these restrictions are in place now for four weeks. We know this will be difficult for many of our businesses to endure, which is why we need to unite in our efforts and work together in order to re-open our businesses once again.

We have heard from many businesses about their concerns related to a second lockdown and we know that additional funding and lockdown support is an essential element to help many of our businesses survive this next phase of enhanced measures. We also know there are still some businesses, particularly new businesses and start ups, that are falling through the cracks and we will continue to work with government to find solutions that will support these businesses.

To help small and mid-sized businesses continue to survive this ongoing health crisis, the province is expanding and increasing the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant. The government is lowering the revenue loss threshold to 30% (from the original 50%), and all eligible businesses in the province will also be able to apply for a second grant payment. In addition to the first grant of up to $5,000, business can apply starting this week for an additional grant of up to $15,000 in potential funding.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy was changed in November to extend the subsidy to June 2021 with details for claim periods beginning after Dec. 19 still to be confirmed.

The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy was more recently announced and applications are now open. This is an improved program to the previous Canada Emergency Rent Assistance program. Under the new CERS program, businesses, non-profit organizations, or charities, whether a tenant or property owner, with lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for a direct subsidy to up to 65% of their commercial rent or property expenses from Sept. 27, 2020 until June 2021. Applicants eligible for the base subsidy may also be eligible for an additional 25% in lockdown support for up to 90% of expenses if your business is forced to close as a result of Alberta’s new public health orders.

The Canada Emergency Business Account is available through financial institutions and provides interest-free loans of up to $60,000, increased from the previous $40,000. Repaying the balance of the loan on or before Dec. 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of 33 percent (up to $20,000) to help small businesses and not-for-profits with their operating costs.

There are also programs to support employees impacted directly by COVID-19 including Employment Insurance, the Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

In addition, the ShopHERE program and Shop | YXH, a partnership between the Chamber, APEX, Community Futures Entre-Corp, Invest Medicine Hat and the City of Medicine Hat, launched to help businesses shift to an online format. ShopHere is the free website build, plus the first 90 days free with Shopify. ShopYXH.ca is an online marketplace, which is being provided completely free for businesses to sign up. They can either integrate their shopify or Instagram account or just set up their “store” of products directly on the site.

The Chamber also continues to update information on their COVID-19 website page as well as posting weekly blog updates and e-newsletter communications. The Chamber also has a Local First toolkit, a Local first Christmas Facebook event page, a Christmas Xchange website page along with Christmas shopping coupons from local businesses. You can explore ideas to support Local First and share your 12 Days of Local First ideas through social media.

While it is a challenging time for many, we can all do our part to support a Local First Holiday Season so we can keep the Christmas Cheer here.

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