More than 100 businesses in Surrey and at least 41 in White Rock have enrolled in the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program.
The benefit, created in response to the economic toll caused by COVID-19, offers to pay businesses up to 75 per cent of their staffing costs until March 31, 2021.
The subsidy, which received unanimous support in the House of Commons, has to date provided more than $54 billion in support to more than 368,000 businesses, non-profits and charities across the country, according to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
This week, the CRA published an online registry that lists every business in Canada that’s currently enrolled in the program.
While the registry does not clarify where a business is located, a search indicates that at least 108 businesses in Surrey and another 41 in White Rock have enrolled in the program. The exact number of businesses is expected to be considerably higher, as only the word ‘Surrey’ or ‘White Rock’ in a business name gives an indication of its location.
A CRA representative was not able to provide PAN with the exact number of Surrey or White Rock businesses enrolled in the program.
South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce executive director Ritu Khanna said she not only knows of several businesses that have taken advantage of the program, but noted the chamber has, too.
“To be honest, even the chamber has had to use that program because a lot of people don’t realize that we’re just a small not-for-profit. I think we had the busiest year ever trying to support our local businesses with the stuff we were sending out and the stuff we were trying to do with our community town halls,” Khanna said Tuesday.
Khanna said she’s heard from other businesses that the wage subsidy has allowed them to keep people employed when they otherwise would not be able to do so.
“It has helped them tremendously.”
Some of the challenges facing small businesses, she said, are that business owners are having to work extra hours to fill in gaps. Another challenge spurred by the virus is reduced capacity, meaning they must ask people wait outside, no matter how unpleasant the weather might be at the time.
“It’s been a really huge pressure, especially for the small businesses. For those who took advantage of the program and were able to retain their employees, it was a big deal,” Khanna said.
The biggest expenses small businesses face, she added, are lease rates and wages or salaries.
“We haven’t really seen the full effects of COVID. I think a lot of businesses are still in survival mode and Christmas is supposed to be a peak shopping period and, hopefully, they’re seeing an increase in sales.”
In the meantime, Khanna said the chamber will continue to encourage residents to shop local.
White Rock Business Improvement Association executive director Alex Nixon said every business owner he’s talked to in the city has confirmed that they took advantage of the wage subsidy program.
“Every time I’ve asked the question, it’s always been a yes,” Nixon said.
“It was an extremely well-designed program and very helpful to businesses.”
Nixon noted that a requirement of the wage subsidy was based on loss of revenue.
“If you’re telling me (more than) 360,000 businesses have used it, the sheer number shows just how crucial this program has been in getting businesses through the pandemic,” he added. “It shows just how many businesses have lost significant portions of their revenue.”
The CEWS registry can be found here.
The City of Surrey currently has more than 18,000 businesses registered to operate in the city.