Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to the small rural businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
“The impact of COVID restrictions on small rural businesses is much greater than on businesses in the cities. City businesses still have access to hundreds of thousands of people once they’re restricted to take-out service only,” Mayor Rick Bonnett said in a statement Friday.
“That’s not the case in small towns like Ponoka where our largest tourist attraction, the Ponoka Stampede, will likely either be majorly scaled back or possibly cancelled again this year.
“There’s a real risk that some of our small businesses may be forced to shut their doors during this pandemic if more financial assistance isn’t provided to them.”
The financial assistance programs currently being offered to small rural businesses in Alberta are not enough, Bonnett said, adding these funding programs should be administered at the municipal level because “we know our businesses and our communities best.”
“Losing two or three businesses to the financial impacts of COVID has an enormous impact on rural communities compared to larger cities whose tax base consists of many more businesses,” he said.
Bonnett is encouraging residents to shop local as much as possible.
Members of council are writing letters to Premier Jason Kenney and Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr to request more financial support for these businesses.
Coun. Clayton Nelson said council will also be working to get other rural municipalities on board to help lobby the province for financial support for small businesses.
“We applaud our small businesses in Ponoka for doing their part to help fight this pandemic (by closing their doors to indoor dining). But now they need the provincial government to do its part to help them survive the impact of these restrictions on their bottom line,” said Nelson.
Council also thanked health care workers, children who are learning at home and all Ponoka residents following provincial health restrictions.
Coun. Carla Prediger said these individuals are “heroes” in the community.
“Please continue to support each other, be kind and understanding to each other, and we will get through this together,” Prediger said.