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Local businesses prepare for extended shutdown

Local businesses will have to remain closed for another two weeks following the extension of the COVID-19 shutdown in northern Ontario.

Peter Chirico, president and CEO of the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce, admits the extended shutdown will be tough for businesses but recognizes its importance.

“I don’t think anybody’s up for it, but it’s the reality we’re facing. As much as we’d like to see everyone wide open, that’s not the reality,” he said. “I would rather have it dealt with immediately and not die by a thousand cuts, so to speak.”

Since December 26, non-essential businesses have not been allowed to open their doors to the public, only able to offer services virtually or through curbside pickup.

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“The curbside pickup and the ability to deal online certainly helps and maintains some positions during this period. But at the same time, it’s not the normal day-to-day business that they’re used to,” Chirico noted.

In an effort to mitigate the impact of the shutdown on small businesses, the Ontario government has introduced a new grant that could see small businesses receive up to $20,000 in support.

“Each eligible small business will be able to use this funding in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business,” the province states.

Chirico says the Chamber of Commerce is available to help its member businesses with the application process, which will open later in the month.

“I encourage every business that qualifies to apply for that funding. It’ll help them through this tough period,” he said.

Businesses that have had to close down because of the shutdown, have less than 100 employees and have suffered at least a 20 percent revenue loss in April 2020 (compared to 2019) are eligible for the grant.

When the initial two-week shutdown was announced before Christmas, Chirico said he hopes Boxing Day sales will still happen in January. Now that the shutdown has been extended, he still holds out hope that businesses will rebound when it is finished.

“I’m hoping that when the lockdown is over, we have a celebration by shopping locally, eating locally and staying locally,” Chirico said.

Northern Ontario joins the southern part of the province in a shutdown until January 23.

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