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Calgary business owners seek more support from city despite coronavirus tax penalty relief

Calgary business owner Lisa Maric said the city’s support for small businesses isn’t enough as many continue to struggle during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, city council voted to forgive the late payment penalty on property taxes owed June 30. The reprieve will last until Sept. 30.

The decision gives temporary relief to residents and business owners who are unable to make payments during this time.

Calgary City manager David Duckworth said they would continue to advocate to both the provincial and federal governments to further flexibility.

“We might be in a different position eight-weeks-plus from now, to do something more that we don’t know of today,” Duckworth said.

Trying to stay afloat during coronavirus

Maric opened Distilled Beauty Bar and Social House in Marda Loop four years ago. She was forced to temporarily close her doors and lay off 22 employees due to the outbreak.

She and her son are now the only workers at Distilled. The coffee house is still open to serve the community four days a week. The business has seen a massive decline in revenue, with average sales totalling only $150 a day.

“We’re here working from nine to five every day. There’s no paycheque and we don’t qualify for any benefits. We’re trying our best to cobble together and stave off the inevitable,” she said.

“Lots of expenses have gone up and everyone’s struggling. The deferrals are nice but they don’t take a lot of factors into consideration, such as rent,” she said.

Maric said that politicians don’t seem interested in knowing how cash flow works within small businesses.

“When I have no sales, a deferral isn’t offering any kind of support,” Maric said.

“Access to deferrals for property taxes is already too high. In an economy that’s looking like it might fall off a cliff, it’s not going to help,” she said.

‘Between a rock and a hard place’

Some of Distilled’s clients offered to buy gift cards to show their support. Although Maric appreciates the gesture, she doesn’t feel comfortable taking them if the business closes for good.

“It’s great, but what if my landlord bankrupts me and I take $10,000 from my clients who support me. They can’t use their gift cards. I’m between a rock and a hard place,” Maric said.

“If I don’t win the battle, that money goes to someone who doesn’t love the business. They’ll just put it in their back pocket,” she said.

‘Small businesses are the backbone’

Lourdes Juan, who owns Soma Hammam & Spa, said rent and property tax deferrals are band-aid solutions to a larger issue.

“Many small and medium-sized businesses have seen their revenues go from thousands of dollars to just zero per day,” she said.

“How will business owners pay thousands in rent and property taxes in a few months if their income has been $0?”

Juan said that small businesses will only make it through this if all orders of government work together.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy. We need them to take action to ensure their survival,” she said.

‘It’s a tough time’

Kevin Kent, who owns Knifewear and Kent of Inglewood, said council has done the right thing to help business owners. After nine stores were temporarily closed due to the coronavirus, Kent said anything helps.

“I think it’s a great move and it’s going to help us out a lot. It’s a tough time right now,” Kent said.

“Any deferrals help when you have no revenue. You’ve got to find a way to cut your expenses,” he said.

Despite taking action, Kent believes the city can’t do much more to help businesses at this time.

“I don’t think there’s much they can do. The only revenue they have is from property taxes. They don’t have many levers to pull,” he said.

Kent expects a slow economic recovery once everything returns back to normal.

“If the city really put effort into thinking about how to help local businesses, that would be huge,” he said.