Most businesses feeling the pain from pandemic and oil price collapse: survey

Preliminary survey results show COVID-19 having impact on nine out of 10 businesses

Seven out of 10 Alberta businesses say COVID-19 has significantly impacted them. And four out of 10 say low oil prices have hurt them, according to a survey.

COVID-19 was cited by 68 per cent of respondents as having a significant impact, and 23 per cent said it had a low negative impact.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce president Dustin Snider.

Forty-four per cent said low oil prices had a significant impact, and another 31 per cent said pricing had a low impact.

Combined, 91 per cent of businesses have been affected by COVID-19 and 75 per cent by low oil prices, according to preliminary results from the survey commissioned by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, Economic Developers Alberta and Community Futures Alberta.

“The COVID challenge has hit us harder than the oil prices,” said Snider, who is general manager of Red Deer’s Earls restaurant.

The eatery closed its doors to sit-down service on March 17 and about 40 workers were temporarily laid off.

However, the restaurant has still been providing takeout and delivery service and 25 employees are still working.

The takeout business has been doing well, he said.

“We’re quite encouraged by the support the community has shown.

“It’s not ideal, because we’re in the people business. We miss the relationships,” he said.

Some business owners in Canada have said if health restrictions continue for two more months or more, they will fold.

Snider said Earls is positioned to ride out the quarantining. But nobody knows under what conditions and under what new rules restaurants and bars and similar businesses will be able to reopen.

“I think the scariest part is the unknown at this moment. So there’s no way to plan how to do that.”

The way Red Deer businesses have been able to come together and think of ways to weather the storm has been encouraging, said Snider.

“There have been some really great initiatives going around town about supporting local,” he said. “I think that Red Deer has always shown a strong ability to support each other.”

Snider says the economic challenge has also brought local organizations and businesses closer together.

“I think that we’ve certainly done a better job of connecting with each other in the last month,” he said, adding he has been in regular contact with others in the hospitality business.

“I’ve probably been in more communication with them in the last month, than ever before. So, that’s been really good.”

The survey also aimed to get a read on how much businesses were tapping into a variety of financial aid programs rolled out by the government.

Nearly 90 per cent of businesses that had applied for deferral of financial obligations said they did not expect to be financially solvent if those expenses had to be repaid in a lump sum.

Efforts were also made to determine what relief measures businesses were using to ease the financial pain.

Eighteen per cent had received benefits or money from programs allowing utility, rent, line of credit, mortgage and lease deferrals.

Another 18 had applied and were awaiting an answer. Six per cent said they applied but did not qualify, and 46 per cent said they had not applied.

Only nine per cent had applied and received capital loans through the Business Development Bank. Nine per cent had applied and not heard back yet, and 70 per cent had not applied.

Six per cent had received money through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and 14 per cent had applied. Six per cent had applied to participate in the EI Work Sharing Program. Seventy-seven per cent had not applied.

The survey remains open until Sunday. Businesses can respond here or go to the Alberta Chambers of Commerce website at www.abchamber.ca.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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