A Letter Requesting Support for SMB Retailers in Lockdown

On Tuesday, January 19, 2021, Carol Jolly, Executive Director of The Junction BIA, sent Premier Doug Ford a letter requesting support for small businesses during the lockdown. Included are specific recommendations that we and other Toronto BIAs are calling for to support small businesses. We received a response from Premier Ford’s office on Friday, January 22. Businesses – Consider sending This Letter to Premier Doug Ford, as well. 

Please see below for a copy of the letter and the response from Premier Ford.  

Attn: Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

Re: Requesting Your Support for Small Business Retailers During Lockdown

Thank you for your ongoing efforts as Ontario continues this difficult fight against COVID-19. The Junction Business Improvement Area is one of Toronto’s 80+ BIAs. Standing with TABIA, we collectively represent over 70,000 small and medium-sized businesses and property owners. As a community, we support increased efforts to tackle the virus. However, we are also concerned about their effectiveness in containing the spread and inconsistent impacts for small, locally-owned businesses.

Under the latest emergency orders, essential retailers – particularly big box stores – can sell non-essential items in-store and after-hours. This puts small businesses at a disadvantage and is a public health concern as it may encourage non-essential travel.

We ask you to take urgent action by going one step further in the orders and mandating big box stores and other retailers selling essential goods to close off sections of their stores where non-essential items are displayed. Manitoba has implemented this strategy and has seen cases going down since the order went into effect.

We recognize that big box stores need to be kept open to provide essential goods for folks, especially given the varied geography and access to online shopping across Ontario. But there is also an imperative to be fair with main street businesses who have made incredible sacrifices throughout the pandemic. To level the playing field has been an ask from many businesses we have been speaking with on city-wide calls every Tuesday since the pandemic began.

On behalf of our communities, I hope that you’ll review the new public health measures to curb non-essential travel further and to be equitable to all business operators and continue delivering on the support promised to small business owners throughout the health crisis.

Respectfully,

Carol Jolly

Executive Director

The Junction BIA

(416) 561-3683 – mobile

Response:

Thank you for writing to me about our government’s plan to reopen Ontario. I appreciate hearing your views and concerns.

No one wants to get the economy going and get people back to work more than I do. It means having a responsible plan, taking the best scientific advice and working together with our partners. And, most importantly, it means doing everything necessary to keep people safe. We need everyone to follow the public health rules in order to protect all our citizens, especially the elderly and the vulnerable.

We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. In response to the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, the real and looming threat of the collapse of the province’s hospital system, and risks posed to long-term care homes as a result of high COVID-19 transmission rates, our government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, is immediately declaring a second provincial emergency. Effective January 14, our government has issued a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work. This order and other new and existing public health restrictions will help stop the spread of COVID-19 by reducing concerning levels of mobility as the province continues its vaccine rollout and ramps up to mass vaccination when the federal government is able to provide the necessary supply to do so.

To further stop the deadly trend of transmission in Ontario communities, hospitals and long-term care homes, our government has enacted the following additional public health measures:

  • Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. This is consistent with the rules during the lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 and will allow individuals and families to enjoy time outdoors safely.
  • Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.  
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.

 We recognize that small businesses impacted by these necessary public health measures will require additional support so they can continue serving their communities and employing people in Ontario once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. That is why we announced the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small business owners to help navigate this challenging period. More information about the Ontario Small Business Support Grant is available here.

We have also provided $600 million in relief to support eligible businesses required to close or significantly restrict services due to enhanced public health measures, doubling our initial commitment of $300 million made in the 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support Recover. A detailed list of eligible businesses, as well as instructions for applying, can be found at Ontario.ca/covidsupport. In addition, businesses can apply online for temporary property tax and energy cost rebate grants from the province, via an easy-to-use one-window portal. More information, as well as instructions for applying, can also be found at Ontario.ca/covidsupport.

For additional information, you can call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.

Thanks once again for contacting me. Working together as a province, I know we will come back better and stronger than ever.

Doug Ford

Premier of Ontario