The Fernie Chamber of Commerce continues to work hard on behalf of our community to guide our businesses and entrepreneurs through this challenging time. The reality of this new way of life is gradually starting to settle in and I note BC Health Minister Adrian Dix’s comment yesterday that, “there’s zero chance BC’s orders (regarding physical distancing) will be varied in April.”
Today the full financial impact of COVID-19 is really hitting home for a lot of us with rent and lease payments being due on the first of the month. We have rounded up in this email the latest announcements from government regarding their relief packages for individuals and businesses. We continue to be encouraged by elected officials from all parties and levels of government coming together with the business community to address this issue. Locally, I am in touch with Mayor Qualizza regularly as we share information and make sure our advocacy efforts are in lockstep on your behalf. I sat in on the live stream of the City of Fernie’s council meeting this morning around their 2020 budget and I’m also encouraged by how seriously they are considering Fernie’s economic recovery as part of that process. As a team and a community, we will be ready to rebound when the time is right.
Weekly Fernie Zoom Meetings
Now in its third week, the Fernie Chamber of Commerce will continue to host a Zoom round table meeting for the Fernie business community every Thursday afternoon. This is a reminder of our next virtual Zoom meeting for the Fernie business community happening tomorrow (Thursday) at 1:30pm. Please note that if you wish to submit a question you must use the chat function in Zoom. We may not have time to answer all questions posed in the chat but will try our best to answer what we can. Questions must be framed in a considerate, polite and appropriate manner to be considered. Not all speakers will be available to stay on the call for the Q&A period.
Fernie Business Community COVID-19 Meeting
Thursday 2 April
01:30 PM (Mountain Time)
Meeting ID: 436 387 8084
Update from Brad Parsell (Executive Director, Fernie Chamber of Commerce)
Update from Ange Qualizza (Mayor, City of Fernie)
Update from Nic Milligan (Manager of Social Responsibility, Teck)
Update from Ron Clark (Chief of Staff, Elk Valley Hospital)
Update from Jikke Gyorki (Executive Officer, Tourism Fernie)
Q&A with time permitting (questions to be submitted via chat function in Zoom)
Local Businesses Offering Services
Tourism Fernie in collaboration with the Fernie Chamber has created a list to track what local businesses are offering during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list is being updated daily outlining what businesses remain open, which are closed, and those that are doing something different. This is a great way to keep our community informed and support our local businesses, see the list here: BusinessOpen-Closed_Fernie-COVID19-Apr_1-2
Please contact Jesse (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be included on this list, or to provide updates for your business activity or contact information. If you have updates on your own website, please provide us those links.
Fernie Business Pulse Check
At the start of this year, the Fernie Chamber launched a new initiative where we do a quick 30-second survey of our membership at the conclusion of each month. Now more than ever, it is critical that we understand what our membership and local businesses are seeing and experiencing on the ground. This will inform our advocacy efforts to all levels of government as a Chamber network, as well as informing Fernie’s longer-term economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We implore you to take 30 seconds to take the Fernie Business Pulse Check survey for March 2020, which is open until April 15.
We also strongly encourage our local businesses to participate in the province-wide surveys on the economic impacts of COVID-19 being conducted by the BC Chamber of Commerce every two weeks at BCmindreader.com
The BC Chamber of Commerce has a seat on the recently-established provincial economic recovery task force that is being chaired by BC Premier John Horgan and also includes BC Finance Minister Carol James. The BC Chamber of Commerce has a clear line of communication straight to the Premier on behalf of the business community. The BC Chamber sent this letter to Minister James yesterday outlining what they are hearing from the business community and what they would like to see announced in the second phase of provincial government relief measures. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce strongly supports this advocacy messaging on behalf of our members.
What We Know Today
A case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Elkford on Monday night making the first confirmed case in the Elk Valley. The Mayor of Elkford has stressed the need for calm and for people not to panic.
Everyone should be following the orders of provincial health authorities. Physical distancing of at least 2 metres between people must be observed when outside your home. People are strongly encouraged to stay home and only go out for essential reasons like work or a weekly grocery shop. Regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face. It is critical that we do everything we can now to reduce the severity, spread and duration of this crisis.
Support local Fernie businesses wherever possible if you can during this time. Businesses whose doors remain open are taking extreme precautions to obey the physical distancing requirements by limiting the number of people in store and their movement in the space. Order online, get take-out, buy a gift voucher – every little bit of cash flow helps them right now.
On Friday, the federal government announced their plan to increase the previously announced wage subsidy program from 10% to 75%, retroactive to March 15.
Further details on this new wage subsidy were provided by the federal government on Monday. The subsidy will be available to employers that can show their revenues have fallen by at least 30% due to COVID-19 and will be capped at $847 per week. It is still unclear how businesses will be asked to prove this. If employers are able to provide the additional 25% wage they are encouraged to do so, but at this point it does not appear to be a requirement.
You do not need to apply for the wage subsidy. You will continue deducting income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums from salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration paid to your employees, as you currently do. The subsidy is calculated when you remit these amounts to the CRA. Once you have calculated your subsidy, you can reduce your current payroll remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy.
Also announced federally since our last update is a new Canada Emergency Bank Account which provides for $40,000 loans that are interest-free for the first year, with the potential for $10,000 to be forgiven if the $30,000 is fully paid off by December 31, 2022. There are qualifiers for this including a minimum annual payroll of $50,000. Loans are available to apply for starting April 6.
The CRA will allow all businesses to defer, until the end of June 2020, any GST/HST payments or remittances that become owing on or after March 27, 2020. This represents approximately $30 billion in short-term interest-free loans to businesses.
Our local Shaw Business Sales Consultant (Melody Huss) reached out to the Fernie Chamber encouraging any of our members to contact her to discuss options with payment or temporary disconnections.
Applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will open on April 6 and payments can be expected to start 10 days after applying. The benefit will be worth approximately $2,000 per month for individual income support and is available to wage earners, contract workers and self-employed people who don’t qualify for employment insurance (EI) for the period March 15, 2020 to Oct. 3, 2020.
The BC Temporary Rental Supplement (BC-TRS) Program which was announced late last week is taking applications starting mid-April.
For more information on all the tools available for economic relief for businesses and individuals, please refer to the three key online resources below. We recognize there is a lot of information to wade through and it can become confusing and time-consuming. All organizations listed below are doing a fantastic job keeping up with all the new announcements and pointing people in the right directions to find more information and to apply.
Best Online Resources – Business Relief Measures and Economic Recovery
BC Chamber of Commerce – Resources For Businesses Affected By COVID-19
Canadian Chamber of Commerce – COVID-19 Business Resilience
BC Economic Development Association – COVID-19 Resources for BC Businesses
Once again I encourage of all of you as community leaders to lead with strength, compassion and empathy at this time. Government relief for a lot of people is still weeks away. People are stressed and vulnerable, and its an uncertain period with no fixed timeline. Having said that, I am overwhelmed by the amount of goodwill, thoughtfulness and generosity on display in our community right now. People are stepping up to help those less fortunate in all kinds of amazing ways and I applaud those efforts. Let’s keep up with the isolation and physical distancing, and flatten that curve. The next two weeks are critical.
Stay strong out there.
Brad Parsell – Executive Director
250 423 6868