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Ontario chamber calling for more small-business supports

Recent COVID restrictions putting Ontario enterprises in “dire straits”

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is calling on the provincial government for more small-business support to prevent business closures and job losses in the wake of new provincewide restrictions aimed at stemming COVID infections.

In a Jan. 6 letter to Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, Rocco Rossi, the chamber’s CEO, said Ontario’s small businesses are in “dire straits” thanks to newly announced restrictions that cut capacity levels and, in some cases, close their doors.

“We recognize that public health and a healthy economy are intrinsically linked. However, sweeping new restrictions – impacting employers, workers, and families – unaccompanied by immediate and commensurate supports will result in more business closures and job losses than necessary under the circumstances,” Rossi writes.

“We need a comprehensive plan that ties restrictions to clear, data-based metrics so that employers, workers, and families can plan.”

The chamber has outlined six steps it says the province can take to provide immediate relief to businesses that have been affected.

They include: 

  • extending the Small Business Support Grant;
  • increasing rental subsidies under the Local Lockdown Program, in conjunction with the federal government; 
  • enabling businesses to apply immediately for rebates on property taxes and utilities, and disbursing payments quickly;
  • expanding access to rapid antigen tests and PCR testing;
  • working with financial institutions and the federal government to forgive loans for businesses most severely impacted by public health restrictions;
  • offering an additional grant to businesses required to implement the government’s enhanced vaccine certification protocols and to cover increased pandemic-related expenses like PPE or improved ventilation.

In addition, the chamber wants a consistent plan to address how the government will respond to future stages of the pandemic.

“Clarity and consistency on specific metrics that inform the government’s decision to impose or ease restrictions are paramount for business confidence and continuity,” Rossi writes.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce represents the business interests of 60,000 members and 157 chambers of commerce and boards of trade across the province.