“Unintended consequences” of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) are emerging as a concern for Sechelt Chamber of Commerce members as they try to move forward during the economic restart.
Chamber members met on Zoom May 28 to discuss their experiences so far with government support programs during the pandemic, adjusting their business models and, for those who’ve been completely closed because of health authority orders, how they’re managing reopenings.
“As businesses start the revival process we felt it would be useful to hear from you how you weathered the storm and how you see your future,” chair John Henderson said, adding that the Chamber is hoping to devote its next regular meeting with MP Patrick Weiler to passing those experiences on in the hope the federal government can address any issues.
There was a lot of talk about having to reconfigure workspaces with Plexiglas shielding and similar measures to prevent the spread of COVID and the costs and complexities involved in that.
“We’re now seeing the double-edged sword of the CERB,” said one Chamber member working to get a restaurant reopened. “We’d like to reopen seven days a week. We need cooks and we’re running into trouble finding people that are willing to work during the time of CERB. That’s something that we’re experiencing right now.”
A member in a similar situation said another issue with getting staff back was confusion around rule differences between CERB and regular Employment Insurance when it comes to how much you can earn without a clawback.
Henderson said the Chamber executive had also been polling members to get their experiences, and he passed on a story from a person who had worked for a “very long time” in the food and beverage industry.
“She said to me that the stress of the new working environment was such that she didn’t want to come back,” Henderson said. “The stress on people in those kinds of roles is not just am I going to get paid. It's actually much more impactful on the type of work that they’re doing.”
Henderson said another member they polled, a food retailer, commented on the need for extra staff.
“Somebody on the door all the time, at least two people doing cleaning all the time. It adds costs and they’re having difficulty getting staff to do that work.”
Henderson added: “I’m hearing a theme about staffing, and the perhaps unintended consequences... The government’s going to have to deal with them.”
Weiler’s next session with the Sechelt Chamber is scheduled for June 1.