Help, support, available for local businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic
Tim Brody - Editor
As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across the province of Ontario, in an effort to stop the spread, the provincial government reduced its list of businesses classified as essential on April 3.
The full list of is available at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces?_ga=2.89287067.1603993539.1586151401-2038828784.1546477887
The provincial government shared through a news release, “The government is ordering all businesses not covered by the updated Emergency Order to close effective as of Saturday, April 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. This closure will be in effect for 14 days, with the possibility of an extension as the situation evolves. Teleworking, online commerce and other innovative ways of working remotely are permitted at all times and are strongly encouraged for all businesses.”
“We are facing a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19 and we must do everything in our power to keep everyone safe and healthy and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed," said Premier Doug Ford. "Everyone must do their part to stop the spread and flatten the curve. If you are not an essential business, you need to close your doors, work from home if possible and play a role to help contain this outbreak. This is a matter of life and death.”
“We have now reached a critical time in our fight against COVID-19,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health “Every step taken by the province and every effort made by each of us to avoid close contact with others are the key to our success as a province to stop the spread of this virus.”
The Sioux Lookout Chamber of Commerce has taken the following measures to help its members, “We have been involved in the weekly Shared Information calls that the Municipality holds for all major stakeholders within the community regarding Covid-19. We are forwarding any and all information that we receive from the Northwest Health Unit, the Municipality and the Federal and Provincial governments onto our members regarding steps taken for safe practices. The Board of Directors decided that due to these uncertain times, we would refund any 2020 membership fees to date, which includes all 2019 members. All Chamber events for April and early May have been cancelled. The Travel Information Centre and Chamber of Commerce office will remain closed until April 30th, however, if any businesses or residents have any questions, we can be reached by email [email protected] or by calling Katie Positano (807.738.4181) or Christine Hoey (807.738.3600). Stay safe! We're all in this together!”
Positano, Chamber President, and the Chamber’s Board of Directors further informed, “The Chamber of Commerce would like to strongly encourage people to shop local during these trying times, as much as possible. We are working on a campaign to support our local economy for when businesses are allowed to open to the public, to help spark local commerce.”
Patricia Area Community Endeavors (PACE) Executive Director Caroline Goulding said the organization is also working to support area businesses, “PACE continues to offer our regular services which include business counselling and small business loans. During the pandemic we are able to offer 0% interest and deferred principal repayments. People can contact our Business Development Coordinator at [email protected] for help.”
Goulding is encouraging businesses to be proactive, “Reach out to suppliers, customers, creditors, and landlords. Businesses should communicate early and frequently about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and operations. This may include requesting to defer payments on invoices because of cash flow interruptions. Businesses should not be afraid to ask for help or flexibility.
“Businesses should also engage in planning. Cash flow projections are a key tool that businesses can use to anticipate their needs over the coming months. Businesses that are currently closed can also use this tool to estimate how much they will need to restart operations. In addition to cash flow projections, businesses should plan for possible eventualities like staffing shortages due to sicknesses or child care needs. They should also plan and implement measures to keep their employees and customers safe and minimize the spread of the disease. The more planning business owners and managers do now, the better they will be able to respond as the pandemic progresses and eventually ends. PACE can help businesses make these plans.”
She added, “Businesses should also do their best to keep informed of the various response programs the federal and provincial governments are putting in place. It can be difficult to track these programs as they can change daily. Both the provincial and federal governments have websites that they are keeping updated that businesses can use to help keep themselves informed.”
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout is also providing helpful tips for businesses on the COVID-19 Pandemic Information and Resources portal on its website, siouxlookout.ca.
In addition to links that businesses can follow for support, the Municipality is also conducting a Business Impact Survey.
Vicki Blanchard, municipal Economic Development Manager informed, “The Municipality, through our Economic Development Department, is working diligently to gather information regarding supports for businesses during these unprecedented times, and we are sharing that information with the Sioux Lookout business community. We are assessing the situation and will continue to monitor announcements from both the Provincial and Federal Governments, their agencies and other funding grantors so that we can provide the best possible information to support our local business sector. I am in touch we all levels of government to determine how municipalities can be a conduit for programs to reach the grassroots level. The purpose of the survey is to compile key information from local businesses so that we can better understand their challenges and needs at this time.”