For worst-hit businesses, COVID will cast a two-year-long shadow: CFIB

Research finds more than 80% of small businesses have not fully gotten back on their feet

For worst-hit businesses, COVID will cast a two-year-long shadow: CFIB

Last week, the federal government announced additional relief for business owners by pushing back the end date for its wage and commercial rent subsidy programs back to October. But for many entrepreneurs, that’s little more than cold comfort.

According to the latest research from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), over 80% of small businesses have not recovered fully from the pandemic’s impact. That number rises over 90% for the worst-hit sectors, including arts and recreation (95%) and hospitality (96%).

According to the CFIB, businesses that have not yet recovered have a long healing journey ahead, with members of that group estimating they’ll need an average of 23 months to get back to normal.

“While we are starting to put the worst of the COVID storm behind us, for small businesses clean-up and recovery is its own daunting task,” said CFIB Executive Vice President Laura Jones.

When asked by CFIB to define what recovery means to them, small business owners gave very telling answers, largely centred around escaping the impact of on-again, off-again lockdowns.

Forty-six per cent said it’s about getting back to pre-pandemic sales levels. Nearly the same number of respondents said it meant no longer experiencing high COVID-19-related stress and anxiety (45%) or experiencing no more pandemic-related delays in supplies and shipping (44%).

Four tenths of respondents cited being allowed to fully open without restrictions (40%) or paying off debt they took on because of COVID-19 (39%). Other participants identified other conditions like a return to pre-pandemic staffing (27%), no longer worrying if they’ll have to close shop permanently (24%), or establishing a set of “new normal” practices for employees and customers (23%).

“Recovery means much more than getting back to normal sales and staffing—it's also about paying down debt and processing the shock to our collective systems,” said Simon Gaudreault, vice-president of National Research at CFIB. “Things are starting to look much more normal on the surface but there is still a long road ahead for many business owners who remain stressed out about the future.”

Aside from reiterating its call for consumers to support small businesses, CFIB called on governments to lengthen the timeline for support measures until the economy, including Canada’s borders, has fully reopened.

“With a potential federal election on the horizon, it is crucial that all parties have a strong strategy for how they will support small businesses and the communities that rely on them through their recovery," Jones said. “And, as consumers, we can all be part of the small-business recovery solution in small ways every day.”


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