It’s time for a check-in on the business community and how they’ve continued to be affected by the pandemic. Earlier this month, Statistics Canada released the second wave of the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), with the support of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
The survey was conducted from May 29 to July 3 with business owners from across Canada.
Here is the statement from Perrin Beatty, President & CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce:
“The survey is Canada’s second comprehensive view into how our businesses are coping, and how they are planning and executing their reopening.
The second survey data shows businesses are adapting to a distinctly new, paradoxical phase of the pandemic, where businesses reopen because they can no longer afford to remain closed, but struggle to break even while paying for pre-COVID level costs with significantly reduced revenues.
The business owners I speak with are clear-eyed in their understanding that the truly hard part begins now. The data on the reopening stage of the pandemic has shown three key challenges for businesses of all kinds.
First, getting Canadians back to work. So far, 22% of businesses were able to access the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and, of those, nearly half reported the program allowed them to hire back 30% of their workforce. Another quarter of businesses approved for the wage subsidy reported that it allowed them to bring back 100% of their workers. However, looking forward, this effect appears to be stalling, as 65.8% of businesses reported they expected their staffing levels to remain the same over the next three months. Together, these numbers show the need to expand the eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy to bring back workers and build on the momentum from reopening and job gains in this next phase of the pandemic. (Since the release of the data an updated CEWS regime has been passed by legislators.)
Second, rent relief remains a major challenge for businesses. Only 25% of businesses report having the benefit of rent relief. Three-fifths (60.1%) of the businesses that make rent or mortgage payments had not
requested or been offered the option to defer payments owed. As we approach this new phase, rent relief programs will need to be improved and made more accessible to commercial tenants.
Finally, safety measures remain a priority concern for businesses, owners, workers and customers. 80% of businesses expect to need personal protective equipment or supplies as physical distancing measures are relaxed. However, over one-fifth of businesses are experiencing difficulty in procuring personal protective
equipment or supplies. Increasing access to PPE will be crucial in this next phase of the pandemic to enhance consumer confidence while we live with the virus in our midst. This will be particularly
important for some of the hardest-hit sectors that require a physical presence, such as food services,
accommodation, retail and the arts.
The balancing act between declining revenues and hard costs remains in place. The data demonstrate that we have entered a new phase of the pandemic, where getting to economic recovery will require adapting the wage subsidy to get Canadians back to work and building confidence in returning to economic and social
activities with health as a priority. Now is the time for governments to start transitioning from subsidies to growth as our economy reopens.”
Many of the challenges listed above are also found in the report card from the Mayor and Warden’s
Economic Recovery Taskforce of which the Peterborough Chamber is a member. However, one issue continues to come to the forefront and that is childcare. As is stated in a recent press release on the report card and its recommendations to government, “There has been a shift towards businesses seeking more recovery support as opposed to relief measures. Issues that still remain include uncertainty and challenges navigating safety guidelines which vary between federal, provincial and municipal regulations or are
requiring a longer term approach such as access to childcare for workers to return to work.”
Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development on behalf of the taskforce has released a new survey asking businesses about their capacity this summer and into the fall and winter. It’s important to gather this data and use it to help inform the actions of government moving forward.