Janice Haines and her husband are down to eating just one meal a day, and with the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) relief payments set to end their last eligibility period on Sept. 13, they may have to continue this way for a while.
On July 18, CRB payments will be reduced by 40 per cent, going from $1,000 per two-week period to $600, before grinding to a halt at the end of September, leaving many self-employed business people and workers without traditional EI stuck in limbo.
Haines, who runs The Cardboard Devil, a sports collectible store, has been running in the red, struggling to keep food on the table for her five kids and gas in her vehicle. “I’m not going to be able to pay my bills out of pocket, so I have to hope that my business rebounds enough to support my shop and myself,” says Haines. “I don’t think any level of the government understands the gravity of the situation for small businesses.”
The CRB is an extension of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which was announced back in April 2020 when the pandemic had just begun. The CRB eligibility period was from Sept. 27, 2020 to Sept. 25, 2021, but applicants could only apply for up to 26 weeks worth of aid. However, CRB was meant to protect those who essentially couldn’t work remotely, such as self-employed workers and unemployed workers who didn’t qualify for traditional EI benefits.
Dawn Duchesne, who runs a mobile clothing business, was able to make a living pre-pandemic by selling her clothes in hospitals across Ontario. She also did home shows, fairs and fundraisers on the weekends. She has been on CRB for the majority of the past year, and with hospitals not opening up to vendors she’s not sure what she will do.
“I depend on a large amount of people to pass my booth to make sales,” says Duchesne. “I have too much money invested in my business to give it up and go work hourly for another place.”
Chris Sellers from Lutherwood Employment and Housing Services has noticed an increasing number of people asking for help during the pandemic. “Lutherwood provides a variety of job searching support for people looking for work...we also have a housing services team that supports individuals and families looking to find permanent safe and affordable housing,” says Sellers. “I encourage anyone in Cambridge looking for help with their job or housing search to contact us.”
One thing that Haines points out is that small businesses have not gotten much support from Waterloo Region, not even in the way of advertising to #shopsmall. “The provinces and feds have all come out and said that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, but the tax breaks all go to the big businesses,” says Haines. “We’re not getting any tax breaks from the regional, federal or provincial government."
With the arrival of Step 2 on Monday, July 12 for Waterloo Region of the province's reopening plans and Step 3 expected to begin July 16, many small business owners might be able to get back on their feet. Otherwise as Haines says, “it's impossible trying to float a house with rents the way they are and a business.”
Story Behind the Story: With CBR payments being reduced in July and halted in September, reporter Genelle Levy decided to look into the impact that would have on Cambridge residents and business owners.
Genelle Levy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times