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‘It’s been a struggle’; Small-business owners try to navigate government supports

Financial advisors can help work through application processes, and in many cases are free if you have a business account
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Are you a small-business owner confused about what federal and provincial supports are available to you to help you through COVID-19?

Your bank could help you with that, and it may not cost you a dime.

“To try to read between the lines to figure out how they even calculate them... it’s been a struggle. You almost have to be an accountant, I think, to figure it all out,” Anita Stacey, president of Cowden-Woods Design Builders in Barrie, said with a laugh.

“It’s a little bit confusing to know what is the right program to apply for, because everyone’s circumstance is different," she added 

Stacey applied for a CEBA (Canada Emergency Business Account) loan through Meridian Credit Union and will use the $40,000 in funding to help extend operations when the downturn hits.

“After the application was filled out, it was a matter of days and we had the funds in our account,” she said. “It was a relief that happened so quickly. It was really helpful for us and I’m sure it would be helpful for a lot of small to medium-sized businesses.”

The general contracting company has been in business in Barrie since 1983.

“Construction is a little bit different in that, we have not been impacted immediately by COVID-19,” said Stacey. “We’ve been fortunate that a few of our projects have been deemed essential through the provincial guidelines, so we’ve been able to continue to work. Where it’s going to impact us fairly soon is... some projects were put on hold. For now, we can maintain.

“In about five or six weeks, we will not have projects to go to because they’ve shut down,” she added.

When COVID-19 supports for small businesses started to be announced through the federal and provincial governments, Stacey said she was relieved to have a financial advisor to help her company navigate them.

Jason Teal, vice-president of business banking for Meridian in Barrie, says banks across the country are bracing for multiple waves of COVID-19 impacts, with businesses currently in the first stage.

“What we’re hearing from businesses today is there is an evaporation, or slow down, of revenue. In some cases, businesses have had to shutter that had previously been fully operational, but many have had to scale back their business,” said Teal.

In many cases, businesses are also working to evolve and innovate.

“There’s a very rapid switch in how you do business and interact with your customers,” he said. “Also, looking at your supply chain and (determining) where the risks are you may not have had before.”

Teal says business owners should be looking at their own business needs and being able to clearly define them to assist a financial advisor in suggesting an avenue of action.

“Then you can work through a worst-case and best-case scenario of how things may unfold over the next 12 to 18 months,” said Teal.

Teal says different programs have different criteria, so asking a financial advisor for help can be beneficial in navigating those criteria. Also, most banks offer the services of their financial advisors for free if you already have a business account with them.

“Now more than ever, there’s so much information out there that it’s not reasonable for these business owners to understand it all, and it might not be an efficient use of their time to invest the energy in understanding it,” said Teal. “We have resources internally that can get you up-to-date information, and we encourage full disclosure.”

Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings nine years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering county matters, court, Collingwood and Barrie matters
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