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Why COVID-19 Capacity Limits are Killing Small Business

Restrictions abound as the Omicron variant comes to Canada - and small businesses are not happy with new restrictions.

In Manitoba, tighter gathering and capacity rules have been put in place in Manitoba, where health officials said climbing cases due to Omicron were expected to exceed its resources for notifying most close contacts.

Quebec has announced a de facto lockdown, having wholly closed bars, restaurants entertainment venues, gyms and movie theatres as it reported a new single-day record of 4,571 COVID-19 infections on Monday.

Calling the situation “critical,” Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the fast-spreading COVID-19 Omicron variant has changed everything, as vaccines that offered 70 per cent protection against symptomatic infection from the Delta variant are believed to offer 30 per cent protection against Omicron.

In B.C., there is limited capacity by 50 per cent at venues that hold more than 1,000 people, but they have also extended a cap on fees charged by food delivery companies in an effort to help the restaurant industry.

Newfoundland and Labrador, meanwhile, has limited bars to 50 per cent capacity and restaurants to 75 per cent with physical distancing. The province also sent kids home Monday as schools closed early in response to rising caseloads. Ontario implemented its new public health orders Sunday, which see restaurants, retailers, gyms and other indoor settings operating at 50 per cent capacity.

Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has said that in light of these restrictions, they did a survey of over 3,000 small business owners and found 36 per cent were back to normal sales.

But now, with capacity limits in place, he says that “Any little glimmer of hope that many businesses saw at the end of this two-year tunnel are quickly being extinguished.”

The CFIB has therefore issued an open letter to Canada's premiers calling for better support for small businesses.

They have called for the following five demands:

  1. Immediately announce a fresh round of provincial small business grants.

  2. Urge the federal government to return the wage and rent subsidy to the levels used in the spring of 2021 (available to all firms on a sliding scale as a percentage of their revenue losses to a maximum of 75 per cent).

  3. Urge the federal government to revise extra "lockdown" supports to ensure they are available to businesses facing significant capacity restrictions.

  4. Urge the federal government to reopen the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan program with a larger loan, a larger forgivable portion and delayed repayment requirements.

  5. Urge the federal government to ensure new firms are able to qualify for all programs.

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