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AN UPDATE FROM WHISTLER & BC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

COVID-19 Business Impact Survey generates almost 8000 responses

 

March 19, 2020

The BC Chamber of Commerce(and its 120-member chamber network) in partnership with Small Business BC, The BC Economic Development Association, and Community Futures BC, launched a survey on March 13 to understand specific impacts BC businesses are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and hear their proposed solutions.

As of March 18, almost 8000 businesses had responded to the survey. Read the final results.

The data paints a dire picture of what businesses are experiencing now and what they expect to be facing in the near future:

 
  • 90% of businesses are “currently being impacted by COVID-19” 
  • Of those impacted, 83% are seeing a “drop in revenue, business, or deal flow” 
  • 91% anticipate a further “decrease in revenue in the near-term” 
  • 73% of businesses expect their revenues will drop by 50% or more (with nearly a quarter saying revenues will drop by 100%) 
  • Half of the respondents say they will be “temporarily shutting down” their offices. 
  • 64% of respondents expect to reduce their staff by over half (with a quarter saying they will be reducing their staff by 100%) 
“Public health must be the primary concern during the early days of the pandemic,” says Val Litwin, CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “We commend the federal and provincial governments for prioritizing the health and safety of its citizens above all else. We have also been reassured that government is strategically and thoughtfully looking at ways to mitigate impacts to businesses of all sizes and are working tirelessly to soften the economic impacts to British Columbians. Businesses in BC are saying that a combination of tax cuts, flexibility around tax remittances and enhanced credit access will help them weather this unprecedented storm in the short term.”
 


What Survey Respondents Said

The survey revealed that self-employed and/or contract workers are gravely concerned, due to their ineligibility for Employment Insurance. One respondent says, “I am the only full-time employee, and I may need to close my business, potentially go bankrupt and lose $100,000 investment. I’ve paid into EI my entire life, except for the last year since starting my business. What services are available to me during this incredibly challenging time?”

 
The tourism industry and peripheral industries fear they will be particularly hard hit, with some stating they’ve already seen cancellations of 90% of bookings. “We are worried about bankruptcy if the summer does not go as planned-we really rely on overseas travellers,” one respondent says.
Businesses are saying they need immediate and direct fiscal intervention to mitigate the impacts on their businesses and their employees. “I need cash in hand and decreased bills soon. Help me and my business, so I can help my staff by keeping them employed,” a respondent says.
 


Recommendations to Government to Assist Businesses

The survey results also recommend specific measures that BC businesses would like to see put in place to relieve immediate economic pressures.

The BC Chamber, SBBC, CFBC & BCEDA have already made the following recommendations to government based on survey results:

1. Provide flexibility for tax remittance 
  • Extend the April 30 tax deadline (for those who owe) to take pressure off the system and provide relief.
  • Provide a 6-12-month holiday on paying the EHT to put $950 million – $1.9 billion back in the hands of business, so they can stay open and keep workers employed.
  • Remove the PST for six months on every transaction, or at the very least, for select purchases.
2. Allow for delayed property tax payment 
 
Work with municipalities to allow business to defer property tax payments to free up revenue.
3. Encourage financial institutions to provide zero interest loans, lines of credit and deferred payment terms 
  • Work with banks, credit unions and other lenders such as Community Futures to offer zero interest business loans – with deferred payment terms – backed by government.
4. Enhanced EI access and wage replacement options 
5. Provide funding for business to work remotely 
 
Create a provincial fund to help businesses operate remotely and in turn, avoid staffing reductions/layoffs. This is also a future-oriented opportunity-as we recover from COVID-19, some will continue working remotely, which will reduce congestion and help with GHG reduction targets going forward.
 
 

Federal government’s fiscal stimulus package 

The federal government introduced a stimulus package totalling $82 billion yesterday, including a number of initiatives in categories that businesses flagged in the BC Chamber-led survey, including: providing eligible small businesses a 10 per cent wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer; measures to ensure business has access to cash via loan from banks and other financial institutions (including the Business Development Bank of Canada and

Export Development Canada); and extending the tax filing deadline to June 1 and allowing taxpayers to defer tax payments until after August 31 (for amounts that are due after today and before September).

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