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NDP calls for more business supports as reopen approaches

Rachel Notley responded to Premier Jason Kenney's COVID-19 predictions in a livestream Tuesday evening (Credit: Livestream Tuesday, April 7)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — With many businesses in Alberta allowed to reopen as early as Thursday, the NDP says there are still a lot of gaps that need to be filled.

On Monday, the province launched a webpage that includes guidebooks to advise different businesses on what provisions they should have in place to protect employees and customers as the pandemic continues.

RELATED: Business guidelines offered ahead of relaunch

This follows complaints from businesses, particularly in the personal services sector, who said they didn’t have enough guidance and didn’t know if they would be able to open again at all.

But even with those resources coming out days before the relaunch strategy takes effect, the Official Opposition believes it’s not enough.

“We learned that the after the fact scramble to put out vague guidelines left more questions than answers,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley.

“The one thing that we do know is that most small businesses simply were not given enough notice or time to put in place those rules in time to open.”

Notley was joined by a pair of business owners via Zoom who relayed these concerns as well, along with worries that they still do not have enough to cover rental or insurance costs.

The NDP is now calling on the UCP government to establish direct financial support, including in the form of grants for individual businesses.

This would include $5,000 for physical business improvements, $5,000 for startup-related costs for the retail and services sector, and $10,000 for startup costs for the hospitality sector.

Notley also raised concerns about having enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees so they can stay safe.

“It’s two days until this reopening plan takes effect, and businesses still have no recommended source for acquiring PPE or help paying for it.”

While the federal government has also put rental supports in place for businesses, in the form of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, there hasn’t been direct support from the province.

Many businesses also don’t qualify for the federal program and that is causing further financial strain.

“My landlord refuses to participate in the rent subsidy program and I’m powerless to take on a multi-billion dollar company. I am in phase three, so I was first to close and will be the last to open, and the months take a toll,” said Janis Isaman, owner of Body Couture in Calgary.

“While we’ve received some government support, the thing that would help us the most right now would be a working rent subsidy program,” said Brittany Anderson, co-founder of Laser City.

“We’ve been closed for almost 2 months, and the proposed program isn’t yet available. Plus, in its current form, our landlords wouldn’t be allowed to use it. A program has to be available now, be available to those who need it and be backed by a commercial eviction ban.”

The NDP is also calling on the province to put in place a 50 per cent reduction in insurance premiums until the end of the year and for utility bill relief to go beyond short-term deferrals.

“Overall,” said Notley, “this plan is underdeveloped, unfunded, and leaves Albertans unprepared.”