Kara Deringer

With ongoing public health measures under immense scrutiny, the Alberta government says it will “protect lives and livelihoods” by announcing more supports for local businesses.

Premier Jason Kenney said the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant provided over 50,000 businesses with $350 million in relief since June 2020, employing nearly a quarter of a million Albertans.

However, Edmonton small business owner Kara Deringer has yet to see their applications approved like thousands of others.

According to the owner of Pink Gorilla Pizzeria, it is make-it-or-break-it for her business and staff.

“The economic downturn has become a personal matter for business owners, as the pending grant money is integral for our survival right now,” said Deringer.

She submitted her enterprise relaunch grant application on December 26 and has sent three follow-up emails without government response. After logging in to her Alberta Digital ID account last week, her application remains pending nearly two months later.

She cautioned the government to reduce the turnaround time so that businesses found to be ineligible can access resources elsewhere. She also recommends a contact centre similar to CEBA.

The government Wednesday announced the next phase of its plan to protect livelihoods with an additional $10,000 for hard-hit businesses. This will be made available through the Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit, beginning March 31.

The Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit succeeds the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant that provided businesses facing at least a 30 per cent decline in revenues with up to $20,000 in support.

“The Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit… will ensure those businesses hit hardest by the pandemic continue to have access to critical support to help them to survive the crisis,” said Kenney.

However, unlike the recently updated relaunch grant, the new benefit only applies to businesses experiencing a minimum 60 per cent decline in revenue. It provides them with up to $10,000 in additional benefits to pay wages, purchase cleaning supplies, inventory or preparing for a safe reopening, totalling $30,000 in provincial benefits from the onset of the pandemic.

“Small and Medium-sized businesses make up more than 99 per cent of all businesses in the province and represent over half the jobs created,” Kenney said.

“Job creators employ our family members and our neighbours. They donate to charity and support [after-school] sports. They’ve given us our first paycheque – it’s true for me – and taught us about hard work and responsibility.”

Once again, it’s time to pay it forward, said Deringer.

“When we opened in April 2020 – at a time when most restaurants were completely closed – we were doing takeout only,” said Deringer.

“Thankfully, pizza lends itself well to takeout, so the initial miscommunications between the provincial government and restaurants reopening did not impact us as much as others,” she said.

However, she said layoffs in the kitchen and front of the house are concerns she hopes are alleviated if her application for the enterprise relaunch grant is approved.

“For the last nine months, my suppliers have been paid, my rent has been paid, my staff has been paid, but I haven’t been paid. I think people overlook the fact that business owners right now are really sacrificing to keep their doors open in hopes that it will pay off in the long run,” she said.

“We order from local places like a local butcher and a local cheesemaker. There’s a ripple effect in the economy. We need to make sure that we have the resources to pay those local people.”

“With cash flow so tight right now, that $20,000 would allow us to clear up payment backlogs at a critical time because when you’re offering your food at a 20 per cent discount to the customer, and on top of that, you’re paying more for delivery, it goes to show that we are in a really competitive environment right now,” she said.

On the role delivery apps have in driving business, Deringer said that although she was grateful for the increase in sales, they take about 30 per cent of her sales.

“If you don’t offer promotions and free delivery to your customers, then your sales go down, and salaries and other payments get backlogged,” she said.

Dhaliwal is an Western Standard Report based in Edmonton

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