Business owners seeking government aid in relation to staffing struggles


Published June 10, 2020 at 11:17 pm


While small-business owners are eager to get back to work, many expect to face significant barriers when it comes to hiring or recalling staff.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) believes significant changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will need to be made before the economy can return to where it was pre-pandemic.

“We’re in a pivotal period in the COVID-19 emergency—many economies are reopening and Canadians are looking forward to getting a haircut, enjoying a patio or revisiting their favourite stores. However, despite the record unemployment numbers, many of these small business owners are now facing significant staffing challenges,” Dan Kelly, president of the CFIB, said in a news release.

 “While it’s too early to do away with CERB, it’s time to shift gears on the federal support programs to encourage people to rejoin the labour force,” he continued.

According to a survey from CFIB, 37 per cent of small businesses have concerns related to staffing, such as layoffs, retention, and refusal to work.

Additionally, 48 per cent of small businesses have temporarily laid-off staff, while 10 per cent have had to make permanent layoffs.

Further, 31 per cent have used the CEWS, while 23 are in the process of applying for it.

Moreover, 76 per cent of business owners who have used the CEWS said it was very helpful in addressing the challenges they’re currently facing.

According to Kelly, CFIB has applauded the government’s decision to extend the CEWS to the summer months—June, July, and August.

“Most [businesses] expect their costs to return much more quickly than their revenues,” Kelly said. “But it should be noted that we are already in the new June subsidy period and businesses do not know whether the rules have changed yet.”

In order to assist the challenges businesses are expected to face, CFIB is requesting the Government implement the following measures:

  • Lowering the 30 per cent revenue drop test for CEWS to ensure more small firms can access the program and introducing a sliding scale, where firms would be able to qualify for a smaller wage subsidy with smaller revenue losses
  • Specifically, CFIB suggests all small firms should have access to a 10 per cent wage subsidy, with a subsidy of 25, 50 or 75 per cent based on revenue losses of 5, 10 or 15 per cent
  • Including all employees in the payroll tax rebate, not just those who have been furloughed
  • 82 per cent of small firms believe CERB recipients should be required to be available and looking for work and 68 per cent supported workers being permitted to earn more than $1,000 in additional income while retaining some of the CERB benefits.

“We fully expect this to be a messy recovery requiring flexibility and understanding on everyone’s part,” Kelly said. “In order to get Canadians back to work, the government needs to quickly announce its plans for CEWS changes as it puts additional guidance around the use of CERB.”

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