Posted on Apr 8, 2021
NDP CALLS FOR EMERGENCY SUPPORT FOR WORKERS, SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY THIRD WAVE PUBLIC HEALTH RESTRICTIONS
CALGARY – Alberta’s NDP is calling for immediate emergency support for restaurants and bars and their employees, many of whom will be out of work for an undetermined period of time, given that in-room dining will be prohibited effective Friday to help combat surging COVID-19 cases.
Many small businesses and workers have come forward to say they were caught off-guard by the cancellation of in-room dining in restaurants and bars that takes effect at noon Friday. Despite warning signs of a serious third wave of COVID-19 cases and strict measures being implemented in all other large Canadian provinces, Premier Jason Kenney repeatedly told reporters he would not shutdown establishments again.
“This Premier either made a very serious error in judgement, or he deliberately misled Albertans,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “He ignored rising case counts and warnings from public health professionals, and did nothing to prepare small businesses for another closure. The Premier has promised supports are on the way but the bottom line is they should already be in place.
“Alberta’s NDP supports the stop to in-room dining but that must be accompanied by a robust support program to help small businesses and their workers keep their head above water through this incredibly difficult time.”
Notley joined MLAs and small business owners in Calgary to formally call for:
- The introduction of a Third Wave Emergency Response Benefit:
- This program would be modelled after the Emergency Isolation Benefit offered to some workers by the UCP during the first wave of COVID-19 cases.
- Initially, employees out of work during the new public health orders would be eligible for $500 per week for two weeks.
- Based on second-wave data, it’s anticipated the recent public health orders could leave 57,900 Albertans temporarily out of work.
- Beyond the initial benefit payments, the benefit could be extended for Albertans not eligible for federal government support programs, i.e. Albertans who are underemployed or younger Albertans lacking employment history.
- The program would cost roughly $116 million.
- An improved Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant (SMERG):
- The UCP replaced this program with a new “benefit” that offers less funding support to small businesses and has more restrictive qualification measures.
- Specifically, the NDP would be seeking $25,000 in support offered per impacted small business (up from $10,000 currently).
- We also call for a return to a qualifying criteria of 30 per cent lost revenue (currently at 60 per cent) and a removal of requirements that force owners to reopen their establishments when they may be uncomfortable doing so.
“These proposals we’re putting forward will protect workers and their jobs so that businesses can bounce back quickly from this potentially devastating wave of COVID-19 cases,” Notley said. “Just a few weeks ago, the Premier was acting like this pandemic was behind us. Yesterday 17 of his MLAs tried to pretend it’s not happening at all. This Government needs to step up with support now to help small businesses survive to the end of this public health emergency..”
“The additional funding and common sense changes proposed by Rachel Notley will help me and many others survive while we all work together to stop the third wave from threatening our health system and the health of thousands of Albertans” said Jessica McCarrel, Owner of KaffeeKlatsch. “I support these health measures and I will do everything I need to keep everyone safe. We need to do everything we can to prevent spread just so we do not overwhelm our healthcare system, but we need more funding.”
“Over the past year, we’ve all been faced with a number of necessary but difficult public health choices regarding restrictions and temporary business closures” said Brendan Barnett, co-founder of 88 Brewery who is concerned about his staff and all the other workers that have been impacted by new public health restrictions. “It is unfair to people who work in customer-facing roles that are now losing their jobs again to protect all of us against the spread. We need this small, targeted boost in government support directly to people in need to tide us over while the vaccines continue to roll out.”
Notley also reiterated previous calls for additional small business supports, including a 15 per cent cap on third-party delivery app fees, a reinstatement of the ban on utility shutoffs and commercial evictions until the third wave of the pandemic is over, utility payment relief, and a 50 per cent reduction on business insurance.
“We are currently in the middle of a legislative sitting and we would be willing to work directly with the government to develop and pass any and all necessary legislation to get these emergency support measures in place for struggling small businesses,” Notley said. “We can’t afford to wait.”
A continued list of calls to action to support Alberta workers, families, businesses, students and more by the Official Opposition can be found at www.AlbertasFuture.ca