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April 8, 2020 - Fernie Chamber COVID-19 update

Posted: 
Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 09:12

As we approach the Easter long weekend and with the weather turning nicer, I want to strongly encourage our community to hold the line with provincial health orders and stay at home where possible. A few hours ago Alberta Premier Jason Kenney revealed the most likely projection is that Alberta's COVID-19 cases will spike in mid-May, and that hospitalizations will peak in late-May. No one knows for sure and the outcome will be shaped by the actions of the population. The point is, there is a long way to go here. While the curve in British Columbia appears to be flattening, we are nowhere near to being business-as-usual yet. Let's all do our part, help spread the messaging "Explore Fernie... Later" ahead of this Easter long weekend, and stay safe out there. Our second home owners and visitors from Alberta are a huge part of the social and economic fabric in Fernie, and we can't wait to welcome them again. But now is not the time for non-essential travel. 

This past week the federal government made some significant tweaks to the phase one economic relief measures already announced, and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) opened to applications on Monday. The Prime Minister continues to hint at a "second phase" of relief measures that could be announced as early as next week. Provincially, the BC government has still yet to clearly define the already announced $1,000 emergency benefit for workers and the $500 per month rent assistance program. They also continue to indicate much more is to come. I have rounded up all the latest news from the week regarding business relief and economic recovery below.

 Weekly Fernie Zoom Meetings

Now in its fourth week, the Fernie Chamber of Commerce will continue to host a Zoom round table meeting for the Fernie business community every Thursday afternoon. We have been averaging around 120 participants in these calls. This is a reminder of our next virtual Zoom meeting for the Fernie business community happening tomorrow (Thursday) at 1:30pm. Zoom has recently enhanced its security by making passwords mandatory for meetings. Please note the changed link for this week, or use the password provided below.

If you wish to submit a question you must use the chat function in Zoom. We ask all participants in the call to identify themselves with their full name, and the business/organization they represent. We may not have time to answer all questions posed in the chat but will try our best to answer what we can. Questions must be framed in a considerate, polite and appropriate manner to be considered. Not all speakers will be available to stay on the call for the Q&A period.

 
Fernie Business Community COVID-19 Meeting
Thursday 9 April
01:30 PM (Mountain Time)

https://zoom.us/j/4363878084?pwd=TTk5bExSNzlZNzZYaXpIOHJIOHFEUT09

Meeting ID: 436 387 8084
Password: 250423



Agenda:

  1. Update from Brad Parsell (Executive Director, Fernie Chamber of Commerce)
  2. Update from Ange Qualizza (Mayor, City of Fernie)
  3. Update from Corey Kanzig (Eastern Region Advisor, Basin Business Advisors)
  4. Update from Will Nixon (Senior Manager, Delivery of Benefits, Columbia Basin Trust)
  5. Update from Ron Clark (Chief of Staff, Elk Valley Hospital)
  6. Update from Nic Milligan (Manager of Social Responsibility, Teck)
  7. Update from Jikke Gyorki (Executive Officer, Tourism Fernie)
  8. Q&A with time permitting (questions to be submitted via chat function in Zoom)


What We Know Today

  • Everyone should be following the orders of provincial health authorities. Physical distancing of at least 2 metres between people must be observed when outside your home. People are strongly encouraged to stay home and only go out for essential reasons like work or a weekly grocery shop. Regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face. It is critical that we do everything we can now to reduce the severity, spread and duration of this crisis.
  • Support local Fernie businesses wherever possible if you can during this time. Businesses whose doors remain open are taking extreme precautions to obey the physical distancing requirements by limiting the number of people in store and their movement in the space. Order online, get take-out, buy a gift voucher – every little bit of cash flow helps them right now.
  • The Fernie Chamber remains extremely impressed and proud of the ingenuity and innovation on display from our local business community. Local entrepreneurs are embracing our new reality where they can, and "future-proofing" their business models by embracing e-commerce and new modes of service delivery. We applaud businesses who are using this forced down time strategically and ensuring their future resiliency. 


Updates on Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

  • As the federal government prepared to launch the CERB application process this past Monday, it became more clear that employees who lost their job and applied for Employment Insurance (EI) due to COVID-19 on or after March 15 would be automatically placed in the CERB program. Local laid off workers who applied for EI around March 22 reported receiving their first CERB payment as early as Tuesday this week.
  • The application process is now open for CERB. The federal government is asking people to stagger their applications to certain days of the week based on which month they were born. Applicants can expect their first payment within ten days of applying.
  • The Prime Minister indicated on Monday that CERB may be extended to people who have been put on reduced hours due to COVID-19 (perhaps up to a maximum of ten hours of work per week), and not necessarily just those who have lost their job entirely.
  • It has also been noted widely that some employees are actually better off on the CERB program at a flat wage of $500 per week than they would be with their usual wage if they were working as normal. The fear is that when businesses are ready to recall or rehire the staff they laid off, the financial incentive is for them to stay on the benefit.The Prime Minister has also acknowledged this and has indicated they are addressing it. I would remind employers also that it is only a temporary benefit capped at 3 months.
  • It appears at this stage it is the federal government's intention to include the following groups in the CERB program with some policy adjustments: workers with reduced hours, those who are paid less than they would receive with the CERB, and students or other seasonal workers.
  • On a BC Chamber of Commerce network call yesterday, Frances McRae (Federal Assistant Deputy Minister for Small Business) urged people who are unsure about whether they qualify or not for CERB to simply just apply and get in the system.


Updates on the 75% Wage Subsidy Program

  • A business will now be able to compare its revenue to the same month last year OR an average of January and February 2020. This will help new and growing firms who may not have qualified based on a comparison to the same month in 2019. 
  • A business needs only to demonstrate a 15% reduction in gross revenues for March. A 30% reduction will still be required to receive the subsidy in April and May. 
  • The program will now allow businesses to use either accrual or cash accounting methods. 
  • Employer paid Employment Insurance (EI), Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) and Quebec Parental Insurance Plan premiums will be reimbursed. 
  • Registered charities and not-for-profit organizations are eligible employers to apply for the wage subsidy. They also have the choice of whether or not to include government funding in their revenue calculations.
  • At the time of writing the wage subsidy program was still yet to be formerly approved by parliament.


Other Updates

  • Businesses can start applying for the previously announced $40,000 loans that are interest-free for the first year on April 9. Applications are available through local financial institutions. 
  • Fortis BC this week announced a Customer Recovery Fund
  • In partnership with the Government of Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce launched the Canadian Business Resilience Network website (cbrn.ca) on Monday to help Canadian businesses navigate the COVID-19 reality and prepare for recovery.
  • Columbia Basin Trust announced late last week some support for COVID-19 impacts
  • The Fernie Chamber also recognizes that local not-for-profit community groups have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 with events, programming, fundraising and operations affected. The Fernie Chamber counts over 20 not-for-profits as members. Kevin Allen (local advisor for the Columbia Basin Trust Non-Profit Advisor Program) encourages local not-for-profits to reach out for support by contacting him
  • The International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) scheduled for October 2020 has been postponed until October 2021. This convention was to attract about 1,000 delegates from all over the world.


Best Online Resources – Business Relief Measures and Economic Recovery
BC Chamber of Commerce – Resources For Businesses Affected By COVID-19
Canadian Chamber of Commerce – Canadian Business Resilience Network
Government of Canada - Canada Business App
BC Economic Development Association – COVID-19 Resources for BC Businesses
 
Best Online Resources – COVID-19 Health Information
Health Link BC
BC Centre for Disease Control
Health Canada
 
Best Online Resources – Local Fernie Information
Fernie Chamber/Tourism Fernie - COVID-19 Updates & Local Business Closures/Changes in Service
Fernie Chamber – COVID-19 Updates for Local Businesses on Relief/Recovery
City of Fernie – COVID-19 Updates
Regional District of East Kootenay – Emergency Info & Regional Snapshots
Local Elk Valley Physicians - April 7 Update

Fernie Business Pulse Check
At the start of this year, the Fernie Chamber launched a new initiative where we do a quick 30-second survey of our membership at the conclusion of each month. Now more than ever, it is critical that we understand what our membership and local businesses are seeing and experiencing on the ground. This will inform our advocacy efforts to all levels of government as a Chamber network, as well as informing Fernie's longer-term economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We implore you to take 30 seconds to take the Fernie Business Pulse Check survey for March 2020, which is open until April 15. 

We also strongly encourage our local businesses to participate in the province-wide surveys on the economic impacts of COVID-19 being conducted by the BC Chamber of Commerce every two weeks at BCmindreader.com 

Advocacy
By participating in the above surveys we are hearing you loud and clear. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce, along with the entire BC Chamber network, are lobbying government for three key considerations right now:

  • Rent assistance for businesses with leases
  • Delay the minimum wage hike in BC scheduled for June 1 for 6 months
  • Defer municipal property taxes for 6 months (province covers a portion)


Donation of radio advertising to support Fernie businesses
We are very pleased to announce that Fernie businesses who remain open or are operating on a modified service delivery will be supported by a radio ad campaign on The Drive FM and B104 FM. The radio ad spots started this week, and have been generously donated by Elk Valley Furniture Studios in Fernie, and the donated ad spots are being matched by donated spots from the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group

The radio ads will be highlighting the web page that Tourism Fernie has setup in collaboration with the Fernie Chamber to track what local businesses are offering during the COVID-19 pandemic. It contains a PDF that is being updated daily outlining what businesses remain open, which are closed, and those that are doing something different. This is a great way to keep our community informed and support our local businesses.

That web page is https://tourismfernie.com/news/coronavirus-covid-19

Please contact Jesse (jesse@ferniechamber.com) to be included on this list on this page, or to provide updates for your business activity or contact information. If you have updates on your own website, please provide us those links.

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce wants to thank Elk Valley Furniture Studio and the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group (both Fernie Chamber members) for their generosity in supporting Fernie's business community at this vulnerable time. 

In closing, the frustration around the uncertain timeline of COVID-19 and its impacts are palpable from everyone right now. No one has a crystal ball. The anxiety over how long this could go on and how long we will all be expected to self-isolate is real. Mental health should be top of mind for everyone as we move through the next few weeks in this new reality. This could be a long road. Try to stay sane and hang in there any way you can. We will get through this together and we will be stronger than ever.

Be safe, and be kind. 

Brad Parsell - Executive Director
brad@ferniechamber.com
250 423 6868

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