Sask. gov't announces emergency support for small businesses

Regina – Saskatchewan small businesses will receive additional provincial support to help deal with current COVID-19 challenges through the new Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (SSBEP), the provincial government said in a press release on April 9.

The $50 million program will provide financial support to small and medium-sized businesses that have had to temporarily close or significantly curtail operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We have heard from our business community and understand the unprecedented challenges that they are facing,” Premier Scott Moe said.  “Our government is providing critical support for businesses that have had to fully or partially close their doors to protect public health and reduce the spread of COVID-19.  This is a significant first step in our economic recovery efforts and we are committed to continuing to work with businesses through this uncertain time.”

The SSBEP provides a one-time grant for small and medium-sized enterprises directly affected by government public health orders related to COVID-19.  Grants will be paid based on 15 per cent of a business’ monthly sales revenue, to a maximum of $5,000.

To give maximum flexibility to businesses, the grant is not dedicated to specific cost pressures.  Through the consultation process, many businesses made it clear they are facing acute cash flow pressures in the immediate term due to fixed overhead costs, such as rent and lease payments.  The SSBEP will help businesses address these immediate pressures.

To be eligible for the SSBEP, a business must:

•       have been fully operational on February 29, 2020;

•       have ceased or curtailed operations as a result of the COVID-19 public health order;

•       have less than 500 employees; and

•       commit to reopen business operations following the cancellation of the COVID-19 public health order.

The development of SSBEP is the result of extensive consultations with the business community since COVID-19 restrictions began.  The program was designed to be simple and provide businesses with timely access to funding.

The Government of Saskatchewan will be requesting that the federal government exempt the SSBEP from business income for tax purposes.

The SSBEP supplements previously announced supports for businesses, including waiving penalties and interest charges for three months for late PST returns, zero-interest bill deferral for up to six months for all Crown utilities, and waiving Workers Compensation Board premium penalties until June 30, 2020.

“COVID-19 is having a significant impact on business and our economy,” Regina and District Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins said.  “We applaud the Government of Saskatchewan for introducing the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment and for hearing our concerns about the lack of business cash flow because of COVID-19.  Many businesses are facing critical decisions about the future and the need for cash flow now to help with expenses like rents or leases.  The reality that the payment will be expedited is also vital at this time of need and we commend the government for its understanding of the plight of business.”

“CFIB is pleased the Government of Saskatchewan has heard the concerns of the business community and appreciates this support, which will help to address immediate cash flow issues businesses are dealing with,” CFIB Vice-President Western Canada and Agri-business Marilyn Braun-Pollon said.  “The flexibility and timeliness of this funding will help businesses allocate the dollars as needed during this difficult time.”

“Our members are experiencing significant cash flow issues as the result of this pandemic and we appreciate the provincial government stepping up with this new program,” North Saskatoon Business Association Executive Director Keith Moen said.  “This funding will provide some much-needed support for businesses to help with these challenges.”

Further details and applications will be available on April 13. 

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