By Hannah Bell, MLA District 11 Charlottetown-Belvedere
Official Opposition Critic for Economic Growth
The number one risk for small business survival is cash flow. The pandemic has abruptly cut off business as usual, and though customers still want and need products and services, businesses are challenged from every direction to keep their businesses alive. Some businesses have laid off staff and taken advantage of government programs for wage subsidies. However, commercial rent, utilities, suppliers, and core staff still need to be paid. These bills are due even if businesses have not had any sales. Loan programs are a tough choice for small businesses who may not be able to take on the risk of additional debt, or may not qualify. Deferred payments of rent, fees, and taxes will still be due at some point later on.
The new program to support small businesses via ACOA will hopefully address some of these challenges, especially for those that may not qualify for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) or EDC loan. This could include seasonal businesses that are not covered under the PEI Tourism Industry Support program; micro-businesses (3 employees or less); and new startups. Details are expected soon; existing ACOA clients should contact their project officer for more information.
In the meantime, cash flow is critical. Small businesses must adapt how they do business and how customers can connect with them to keep the cash moving and the business afloat.
What direct action can my business take to adapt?
- Take advantage of programs designed to help business and support local purchasing, like the Business Adaptation Advice Program that provides up to $2500 for professional services by a PEI supplier for a PEI business.
- If you haven’t started already, get going with online purchasing with curbside no-contact pickup or delivery options and a social media / online presence so people can find you. Locally this already includes everything from take out food, groceries and household supplies, building materials to comic books and art supplies. Secure payment options include e-transfer, PayPal and debit using Square readers as well as credit cards, which makes e-payment accessible for those who may not have a merchant account.
- Don’t assume that your business doesn’t qualify for government support programs – contact 1-866-222-1751 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for made-in-PEI support, or contact your MLA to get assistance navigating provincial and federal programs.
- Look for other supports outside government – for example Shopify merchants can apply for small business loans from Shopify Capital; many banks are offering interest payment deferrals; some landlords may be willing to defer commercial rent
What can Islanders do to help small businesses survive?
- Shop locally – connect with businesses through local directories, social media, and recommendations from friends and family. So many businesses are pivoting to find creative ways to offer their products and services to customers.
- Be open to new ways of doing business – shopping online is the new normal and will likely be here to stay, even after the pandemic is eased.
- If you can afford to do so, consider pre-purchasing gift cards or certificates from businesses – this provides them with the cash flow they need right now, and the commitment to the business later.
Our small businesses in PEI are an essential part of who we are – not just for the jobs and economic activity, but as the bedrock of our communities. We must all take responsibility to make sure they survive and support them in any way we can, one purchase at a time.