Pandemic support benefits elude local businesses, survey finds
Businesses reported being confused by the programs or weren't aware of the help
Many local businesses thought themselves ineligible or were confused by pandemic-related government supports, a survey by Workforce WindsorEssex found.
On Tuesday, the organization published findings from its second Business Impact Survey that addressed the ongoing affects of the pandemic between July 10 and Aug. 5. The questionnaire specifically focused on the use of federal, provincial and local government supports.
A key finding, according to the organization's manager of projects and research Tashlyn Teskey, was that many businesses either thought they didn't meet the criteria for financial support or found the process too cumbersome and confusing.
"We were able to learn that for a lot of the government initiatives available, they weren't as applicable to a lot of our industries, specifically those in the service sector and tourism," she said. "A lot of those businesses were ineligible for the programs, whether that was because of them being closed or they just weren't able to access those initiatives.
"A lot of people were unaware lot of the initiatives. So it's really important to see that while, a lot of support was in place, not a lot of people knew about it."
And while many reported that they weren't eligible, Teskey said since a large percentage also found the programs confusing it's likely that some met the requirements but were puzzled by the process.
Of the 127 businesses that responded, a little more than three per cent, or about four businesses, indicated that they had permanently closed.
"A lot of them were in the food, service or retail sector. Obviously, that industry has been the hardest hit, but we are seeing a lot of those restaurants either pivoting or just surviving basically through that first wave," she said.
The responses they did receive were predominantly from those in the tourism, retail and food sectors, which Teskey said may be because those businesses are still reacting and recovering. In comparison, she said they didn't see as many responses from manufacturing or healthcare companies likely because they were more severely impacted in the beginning.
Other key findings from the report include:
- 91.3 per cent of businesses that responded indicated that they felt a "significant or some negative impact" from the pandemic.
- 29.9 per cent of businesses that responded are "open and operating at full capacity (even if remotely)."
- 3.4 per cent of businesses that responded said access to PPE was a "serious issue."
- 62 per cent of businesses that responded said they had no permanent layoffs and 51 per cent said they had no temporary layoffs.
- More than 50 per cent of the businesses that responded were not aware of the following government initiatives: Digital Main Street, Rapid Response Platform, government of Ontario's Workplace PPE Supplier Directory
- Nearly half of the businesses that responded said COVID-19 has significantly decreased demand for the goods/services they offer, with an additional 30 per cent of businesses saying it slightly decreased the demand.
Teskey said they also found that the most valuable resources to businesses was the Canadian Emergency Business Account loan (CEBA) and Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).
First survey indicated numerous layoffs
Findings from the first survey, which launched on March 22 and received nearly 600 responses, said that nearly 93 per cent of businesses immediately felt negatively impacted by COVID-19.
But nearly 4 per cent said it was a positive impact.
With lay-offs, more than half said theirs were temporary and 28 per cent said they were permanent.
At the time, more than 50 per cent of businesses that responded also said that public fear was causing customers to avoid coming out and so they saw a decreased demand in their products or service.
Government needs better communication
The most recent findings, Teskey said, indicate that those operating government assistance programs during this time need to have better lines of communication.
"Those in charge of those programs really need to have conversations with those [tourism, food and retail] industries to see how they can fit those needs,." said Teskey, adding that many didn't find the programs relevant.
"So there definitely needs to be more support for those smaller businesses that maybe didn't have a lot of employees, so they weren't eligible for a lot of those programs."