Whistler Chamber working 'around the clock' advocating for business 

Businesses navigating relief programs during covid-19 can contact chamber for assistance

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - The normally vibrant Village Stroll has gone eerily quiet with the spread of COVID-19. Businesses can reach out to the Whistler Chamber for help navigating government relief programs.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • The normally vibrant Village Stroll has gone eerily quiet with the spread of COVID-19. Businesses can reach out to the Whistler Chamber for help navigating government relief programs.

whistler businesses in need of help navigating federal and provincial COVID-19 relief programs can contact the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

"It's a tough time. I don't even have the words to describe it," said Whistler Chamber CEO Melissa Pace.

"We're really seeing what the greatest needs are in our community right now—HR is one of them, financial assistance is the other one, and how do they get it—so we're starting to really pool together some resources."

Governments have announced several measures to help ease the pain of small businesses, including tax deferments, access to capital and wage subsidies.

The chamber is hosting webinars on relevant topics for businesses—most recently on HR support, Pace said—and compiling resources at whistlerchamber.com.

"I would just say that if there's any businesses out there that are not seeking support—either they don't know what to do or haven't had to lay anyone off, or if they're really hitting the financial wall—they need to reach out," Pace said.

"And that could be to a colleague, it could be to the chamber; we can give you the resources whether it's online or you need to speak to a human being."

The BC Chamber of Commerce is also compiling resources at www.bcchamber.org/node/1777.

"Just know that we're working around the clock to advocate on your behalf," Pace said, adding that the Chamber was excited to hear the province will defer Employer Health Tax payments to Sept. 30.

As business across the province remains frozen in place due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, B.C. everyone is predictably feeling the pain.

According to survey results published March 19 by the BC Chamber of Commerce, 90 per cent of businesses are currently being impacted by the virus, with 83 per cent of those impacted seeing a drop in revenue, business or deal flow.

The survey, which garnered almost 8,000 responses from across the province, found that 91 per cent of respondents anticipate a further drop in revenue in the near term, while 73 per cent expect revenues to fall by 50 per cent or more (and nearly a quarter saying their revenues will drop by 100 per cent).

Half of the respondents said they will temporarily shut down their offices, and 64 per cent expect to reduce their staff by more than half (and a quarter saying they will reduce staff by 100 per cent).

While the responses are concerning across the board, the tourism industry fears it will be hit especially hard, with some operators saying they've already seen cancellation of 90 per cent of their bookings.

"We are worried about bankruptcy if the summer does not go as planned—we really rely on overseas travellers," one respondent said.

Self-employed and/or contract workers are also particularly concerned, the survey found, due to their ineligibility for Employment Insurance (although Ottawa announced a plan Wednesday that would support the self-employed and those ineligible for EI.)

"I am the only full-time employee, and I may need to close my business, potentially go bankrupt and lose $100,000 investment," a respondent said.

Public health must be the primary concern during the early days of the pandemic, said Val Litwin, CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, in a release.

"We commend the federal and provincial governments for prioritizing the health and safety of its citizens above all else," Litwin said.

"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 B.C. 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."

The BC Chamber, along with Small Business BC, The BC Economic Development Association and Community Futures BC, has already made a number of recommendations to government based on the results, including: that government provide flexibility for tax remittance; allow for delayed property tax payment; and encourage financial institutions to provide zero interest loans, lines of credit and deferred payment terms.


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