Calkins says federal supports pick ‘winners and losers’

MP Blaine Calkins on federal supports, Alberta reopening

As businesses continue to struggle as some are able to start up again and others await the next phase of reopening, Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins gave an update to Ponoka businesses on federal relief programs available.

Calkins gave a run down of several of the different federal supports available to businesses and individuals facing loss of income during COVID-19 in a Zoom meeting with the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce on May 19.

He commended everyone on the call, as central Alberta residents, for doing what was necessary to keep the cases of COVID-19 low in this zone.

Calkins says we should be proud of how we’ve handled the shutdowns in central Alberta, as we haven’t been the cause of any outbreaks, and seniors’ facilities and hospitals are in “great shape” for the most part.

“We have done our part, we have down our share, we have responded how government has asked us to in spades … now it’s time for us to be shown a bit of courtesy, in my opinion, and let us get back to what we do best, which is get back to business.”

Calkins says although some businesses may have “rallied” during this time, most have “taken a hit,” particularly those that rely on a seasonal boost to their income such as tourism and events like concerts and rodeos.

“Alberta has been through, quite frankly, enough in the last five years … this is simply another obstacle in our way and one that I know many businesses will have a hard time enduring given the state of the Alberta economy prior to even going in to the February, March closures.”

Calkins says he’s “buoyed” that the reopening of Alberta has begun, and encouraged the call participants to contact their local MLA to give their input on what the next stage should look like.

The programs Calkins gave details on included the new Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA), announced earlier that morning, LEEFF, BCAP, CERB and Employment Insurance, and his thoughts on each as a member of the official opposition.

“It makes no sense to me that the government picks winners and losers and puts rubrics in place when virtually everyone … has been affected by this pandemic and has been affected by the closures,” said Calkins.

CEBA provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, although Calkins says it “left a lot of people on the outside depending on how (they) structured (their) business.”

Only those who had a 2019 return of over $40,000 but less than $1.5 million qualify.

The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP). The program includes loan guarantee for small or co-lending for medium-sized enterprises.

“I’m really worried about that particular rubric,” said Calkins, adding that businesses that were declining over the last four or five years may not qualify.

Calkins also discussed the pros and cons between applying for CERB and Employment Insurance.

Someone with a limited income, such as a student, may actually receive more on CERB than on EI, so there is no incentive to get a summer job or otherwise get back to work, he says.

“When it’s more lucrative to walk to the mail box than to walk to work, we have a problem.”

For information on all federal supports, visit www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html.

CoronavirusMP Blaine Calkins

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