VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – What are normally bustling streets during your morning commute may be less busy these days as more people hunker down in an effort to socially distance themselves amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Businesses and institutions remain closed on orders from governments and health authorities to limit social contact, all with the end goal of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has now killed four people in Canada – all in B.C.
There are early signs that a lot of people’s livelihoods are being put at risk during this pandemic.
An Angus Reid poll out Tuesday morning finds one-in-10 Canadians has already lost hours at work, while two-in-three are worried their personal finances are going to be hurt by this.
This includes part-time and gig-economy workers, who may be worried about how they’re going to make rent or buy food.
A second survey, this time from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, is also quite dire. It found a full quarter of small firms don’t think they’ll be able to last a month if their incomes drop by half.
“It is deeply worrisome when we see the incredible economic effects that COVID-19 has had on small and medium sized firms across the country,” Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told NEWS 1130.
He said the economic damage the novel coronavirus has had on businesses continues to grow across the country.
“Right now, half of small firms right across Canada have seen a drop in sales due to COVID-19, and four-in-10 of them have said that drop in sales has been more than 25 per cent. This is a massive effect on small and medium sized firms that are already dealing with a drop in demand for their products, employee-related concerns and questions about how long they’re able to continue.”
Amid all this, the federal government is preparing to drop a spending package aimed at helping workers. The government is expected to make an economic move as early as Tuesday, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying Ottawa’s immediate focus is on ensuring people in this country have enough money for food as well as a roof over their heads.
“We will be making announcements over the next couple of days that will demonstrate how we’re going to support Canadians, whether it’s through EI for people who qualify for Employment Insurance, whether it’s through direct income supports for people who don’t qualify for Employment Insurance,” Trudeau said in an interview Tuesday.
“Whether it’s money to businesses that will allow them to keep people on the payroll even though they’re staying home, whether it’s access to credit for businesses to loans, whether it’s help with mortgages — there’s a range of measures that we’re looking at, including the Canada Child Benefit, the GST credit for low-income Canadians, these sorts of things are all on the table in terms of tools that we’re looking at to help Canadians as quickly as possible get through this time,” the prime minister added.
Meanwhile, the CFIB is calling on governments to provide temporary relief on income, payroll, and sales taxes, as well as to introduce wage subsidies and cancel planned tax increases.
If there is a bright side to the economic impacts of COVID-19, it’s the price of gas. Many stations in Vancouver posted a litre of regular for as low as 109.9 on Tuesday.
-With files from Cormac Mac Sweeney