'We all deserve and need help': Alberta businesses hope pandemic subsidies are more inclusive

While some businesses are relieved the federal government is continuing critical assistance programs, others are disappointed and confused by the new subsidies.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy expired Saturday, but Ottawa announced a new set of relief measures to continue supporting small businesses.

The new Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program targets the tourism industry, restaurants and bars. They are eligible to receive a subsidy rate of up to 75 per cent.

Another funding stream is available for any business that can prove it lost at least 40 per cent of its regular revenue due to COVID-19.

Different types of businesses fit within funding brackets, ranging from a subsidy of up to 50 per cent down to just 10 per cent.

It’s left Shara Vigeant, owner of SVPT Fitness and Athletics, and other business operators wondering where they fit in and why their losses aren't covered to the same extent as others.

Gyms currently fit into the 10 per cent funding bracket, Vigeant told CTV News Edmonton.

But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says arts, culture, events-based and fitness sectors were only closed in Alberta 50 days less than restaurants.

“I don’t understand how they make the decisions on which industry is more deserving than the other,” Vigeant said. “We all deserve and need the help.

“It kinda leaves us in the dark and out in the cold,” she added. “We don’t qualify for the industries that are still being covered at 50 per cent.”

Vigeant said the federal programs were one of the only certainty she had during the pandemic as restrictions changed and waves of cases came and went.

“(The pandemic) has been an emotional rollercoaster,” she added. “Recovery is on our mind as we are trying to dig out of the fourth wave.

“Every bit helps.”

She described how the turf floor of her gym needs replacing because of all the sanitizing. Now she doesn’t know if she should replace it or save her money in case more restrictions come.

“There are so many what-ifs, what if, what if, what’s going to happen next. You can’t plan for anything,” Vigeant said.

Annie Dormuth, CFIB director of provincial affairs, told CTV News that many businesses think the threshold of money lost during the pandemic is too high or that the programs are unclear.

“It’s quite unclear about the definitions or what they will be using to define these businesses to fit into either of these funding streams,” Dormuth said. “(All of them) face just the same great uphill battle as hospitality and tourism to get back to economic recovery.”

The CFIB launched a petition to push the government to change the funding supports so that more small businesses qualify, saying “it is way too soon to end critical business supports” and that “small businesses are still at risk.”

Until Vigeant gets more answers she hopes to stay open as long as possible.

“We’ve been locked down three times with a lot of ups and a lot of downs,” she said. “Now, we just are trying to figure out if we’ll ever recover.”