Task force established in Summerside to support local business hurt by COVID-19

A task force is being formed in Summerside, P.E.I. to support local businesses impacted by COVID-19.

'In some cases these small businesses are people's life dreams'

Summerside’s Water Street appears deserted in April 2020 and local businesses are feeling the pinch. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

A task force is being formed in Summerside, P.E.I. to support local businesses impacted by COVID-19.

In recent weeks, the city surveyed local businesses, to get some data on the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Brian McFeely, a Summerside city councillor who also chairs the city's economic development committee, said so far, all those who responded to the survey report an impact. And many of those are small businesses. 

80% of respondents are small businesses

"80 per cent of the respondents...had 20 or less employees," said McFeely.

McFeely said 21 surveys have been returned and so far they say reduced hours and sales have hit them hard.  

Summerside councillor Brian McFeely says all businesses that have responded to a survey on the impact of COVID-19 report being impacted. (Submitted)

"Clients have had to shut the door, reducing service, with prospective clients not being able to get into the business to do business," said McFeely.

Supply chains also a concern

"Some people have expressed concerns with supply chain issues and not getting the supplies they need to be able to carry on their normal business."

The task force is in response to feedback gathered from the survey, and will aim to generate ideas for better supporting local businesses. It will include the Summerside Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Summerside Inc. McFeely said the group hopes to meet soon to start working on some new initiatives.

"Maybe zero in on two or three initiatives that make sense from our perspective, that perhaps will meet the needs of the business community, and then try to move forward on those," said McFeely.

He said the task force won't be able to offer much in terms of financial assistance, but may be able to help with initiatives that encourage residents to shop local. He said if the businesses aren't able to keep their doors open, it'll be a huge loss, both for the businesses themselves, and the local economy in Summerside. 

"People's livelihoods is lost, and in some cases these small businesses are people's life dreams," said McFeely. 

"So to me that's the big loss, direct loss, the indirect losses the multiplier effect in the community, over the payroll and those types of things."

Charlottetown processing building permits

Officials with the city of Charlottetown say they are also working to help keep local businesses viable.

An email to CBC from a city spokesperson said right now the focus is on getting ready to support the local economy post-COVID-19, and that includes managing permits for development and processing requests for proposals.

The email said resources on available provincial and federal assistance are being shared with local businesses, and that a Local Goods Guide, encouraging the public to support local business, is being updated weekly.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.


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