Business owners and workers say new brackets are a ‘big help’ amid COVID-19 shutdowns
Fitness and restaurant industry workers are just some of the people looking to apply for new COVID-19 relief packages now that their businesses have been closed for at least two weeks.
Thursday, P.E.I. announced new supports for businesses that have been impacted by the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions, including a 25% discount covering the period public health measures are meant to remain in place.
The province’s emergency lump-sum payment programs for workers have also been extended until Jan. 31.
The announcement came a day after the new restrictions took effect, triggering more pandemic financial worries for many Islanders.
Ananda Argeja, owner of Spicey Chef, said the supports are a “great help” even if they don’t cover all losses.
“Business [is greatly] go down, especially in this restaurant,” he said. “We will discuss it today or tomorrow and then we will ask for this advantage.
Argeja said the restaurant has five or six employees now that in-person dining has been closed. Normally it would be double that number.
Jaspreet Singh is co-chef of the restaurant. He said his hours have been cut in half to around five hours a day.
“Before we used to work more than 40 hours because it was busy every day, even on weekends and on weekdays as well. But now, because of the confinement, everyone wants to stay at home, wants to stay safe , like us too. So it really affects our business,” he said.
Singh says that even though his wife works from home, the situation in her household is still “really stressful”, with wages low while rents remain high.
He said he was looking to ask for help and expected the closures to be extended.
Closure is impacting morale, gym owner says
The Atlantic Fitness Center took advantage of the closure to perform additional cleaning.
Co-owner Chris MacPhee said his staff would apply for the appropriate programs.
“They were very beneficial,” he said. “I know for our business in particular, we don’t have a lot of staff, but it’s a smaller and very valued staff for sure. And they’ve really appreciated the help of the program in the past. “
While he said his business could handle being closed for two weeks, MacPhee said the restrictions also had an impact beyond finances.
He said the pandemic continues to take a toll on the mental health of staff – as well as that of its members.
“Right now, during a two-week shutdown like this…we care about the well-being of our members more than anything else,” he said. “I believe [fitness] has become essential for people’s mental health.”
In the meantime, the gymnasium has loaned equipment to people so they can use it during the closure.
Students also ask for help
Young people have also felt the financial pressure of the restrictions.
The Bell Aliant Center pool has been closed for a month now. Many students working there depend on salaries for various expenses.
One such student is Emily Thistle, a 17-year-old swimming instructor.
“I have a car now and I have insurance to pay,” she said. “It’s kind of my first experience with all of this too, being like, ‘Oh, I really need this income and it’s affecting me.'”
Thistle decided to apply for the $500 emergency lump sum payment, which she says helped a lot. But she said other people who have applied to the program face even tougher challenges.
“I’m very lucky not to be living paycheck to paycheck. But those who do, I know it would be a very difficult situation for them,” she said.
“For someone who would be older, maybe supporting a family, a single parent, I know… you might be afraid of losing your house or putting food on the table. So I’m very lucky to not having to worry about these things right now.”