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COVID-19 support for small businesses extended again

With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the public health restrictions resulting from it, nowhere yet in sight, the Government of Saskatchewan announced on Jan.
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With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the public health restrictions resulting from it, nowhere yet in sight, the Government of Saskatchewan announced on Jan. 29 a further extension to the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (SSBEP) program. The program was originally launched in April 2020, then renewed in December 2020. With this extension, businesses will be eligible for an additional payment for January 2021.

“Small and medium-sized businesses in the province continue to face challenges due to the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said in a release. “Our government believes support for businesses is vital, and the extension of this program for the month of January 2021, as well as the other programs available, will help as we continue to move through this challenging period and toward economic recovery.”

Business restrictions in public health orders have been expanded since the SSBEP program was renewed in December and businesses are encouraged to re-evaluate their eligibility for both the December and January payments, the release said.

The SSBEP program has provided $5.9 million in assistance to 1,521 applicants for the December period. With the public health order extended, more businesses in the province have been impacted. This phase of the program will accept applications for the December and/or January payment until March 2, 2021.

Applicants will be eligible for up to $5,000 per month in funding, and those who qualified for the December intake of the SSBEP will not have to re-apply for January. However, businesses will be contacted to attest that they remain eligible for the January payment.

Steve McLellan, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, said by phone on Jan. 29, “We're clearly supportive of any support for business. Obviously, anything we can do to get more dollars into the hands of businesses, to help sustain them through these very difficult days is appreciated.

“Small business is certainly a challenging sector of our economy, but all businesses are feeling it. Larger hotels, and so on are feeling the pressure. So, it's not just a small business person.

“But bottom line is we support the programs, we're happy that they've extended them, and what we'd like is for them to be extended for longer periods of time. Waves of support is appreciated, but predictability through knowing these are available for some time, with a monthly renewal would be would be fantastic.”

McLellan added, “We don't know how long we'll need these. But we know full well that it will be, it will be some time before businesses are back earning revenue through any kind of semblance of normal.

McLellan concluded, “The most important thing with the support, as much as it's appreciated, is for businesses to carry on keeping the protocols in place, making sure their staff and their customers are safe. And even though everybody's getting very tired of COVID and very tired of working in restricted conditions, we must hold the faith, if you will, and continue to get through it, as we will. But it's not easy, not getting any easier. But we will get through it. And that's the light at the end of the tunnel, we have to be conscious is coming.”

The government release pointed out that are other support programs available for Saskatchewan businesses.

The Strong Recovery Adaptation Rebate (SRAR) reimburses eligible small businesses for investments made to adapt their business to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial assistance includes a payment of up to $5,000 for 50 per cent of total eligible business-adaptation investments made by the applicant prior to Feb. 28, 2021. Eligible expenditures include establishing physical barriers or reconfiguring space to operate safely, providing services through digital tools, providing different services or products, and shifting to delivery or curb-side services. The application deadline is March 31, 2021.

The Re-Open Saskatchewan Training Subsidy (RSTS) is currently accepting applications. This temporary training subsidy provides businesses with financial support to train employees as they adjust to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The RSTS reimburses eligible private-sector employers 100 per cent of employee training costs up to a maximum of $10,000 per business, which will help employers adapt to the impacts of the pandemic and safely align business activities with the re-opening of Saskatchewan's economy. The application deadline has been extended to March 31, 2021.

Businesses that have been fined for non-compliance with public health orders will not be eligible to receive support under these programs.