The opposition Liberals are urging the provincial government to consider new measures to help businesses survive the current COVID-19 crisis.
“We appreciate the fact the province has taken some measures already that will certainly help,” said Carleton Victoria MLA and opposition critic for economic development Andrew Harvey. “However, we’re hearing from businesses throughout the province that believe more is needed. We understand these are very difficult times for everyone and we would urge the New Brunswick government to look at other measures.”
Harvey noted the chambers of commerce of the three largest cities in New Brunswick recently wrote a letter to government that outlines the dire situation many businesses are facing, and suggests some specific measures that would help the private sector weather the economic storm.
Other than those considered essential services, all businesses in the province have been forced to close. This is a necessary measure to help stem the spread of COVD-19 and “flatten the curve,” a top priority for public health officials.
Two of the major issues for businesses are how to pay bills without revenue and access to capital to help both weather the storm now and get back on their feet when their operations resume.
It could be several months until things return to even a semblance of normal, and Harvey believes now is the time for the province to step up and do more for businesses. While some of the province’s larger businesses may be able to easier weather the storm, small businesses are particularly vulnerable.
“One measure we would strongly support is the deferral of all provincial taxes and fees until businesses start seeing revenues again,” Harvey said. “This would definitely include property taxes. The deadline right now is May 31, so why not defer payment for three months to Aug. 31. It’s not likely we’re going to be out of the woods by May 31. They could do this for all property taxes which would help businesses as well.”
Some businesses are looking to borrow money and Harvey would like to see a Small Business Emergency Support Program where the province guarantees 25 per cent of working capital loans for small businesses up to a maximum provincial commitment of $10,000 per loan.
“Other provinces are offering different types of programs, but we believe this will both simplify things for small businesses and lead to quicker approval of loans by lenders. The borrower can calculate what they need and as long as the loan is paid off by March 31 2022, the province will cover 25 per cent of it, up to a maximum of $10,000.”
Liberal Finance Critic Roger Melanson recognized that the province is in a difficult situation and facing financial challenges of its own. But he said the province needs to step up now to help its own economy.
‘We’re at a critical juncture, where businesses are fighting for survival,” Melanson said. “They need help and they need help now and the province can help itself long term by stepping up for small businesses that drive our economy. The more businesses that go under because of this the longer the economic recovery is going to be and that could negatively impact the province’s bottom line for years.
“The province’s finances have improved markedly over the past four years and I completely understand the concern for the province’s bottom line. However, the situation we’re in, the government has no choice but to step in and help. It would be short-sighted not to do more to help. Other provinces are stepping up. I know some support in New Brunswick has already been provided and every little bit counts. But our economic future and the fate of many businesses hang in the balance.”