The coming winter season will be an uncertain one. (File photo)

FCC, SCC plot out how to best support businesses in Elk Valley during COVID-recovery

Business in the valley has taken a hit with travel restrictions and closed borders

The most visible impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may be far away, but the local economic recovery will still be “long and uncertain” as initial government responses to counter pandemic-related economic blows are wound down.

“The business community needs assurance from the federal government about the future of supports like the wage subsidy, which is keeping many of our Fernie businesses afloat right now,” said Fernie Chamber of Commerce’s Brad Parsell.

“We also need to double down on the idea of shopping locally and supporting local businesses wherever we can.”

Early in the pandemic, the City of Fernie and the District of Sparwood moved quickly to allow more outdoor seating for restaurants and cafe’s, allowing local businesses to better maintain a level of service that could keep them afloat – but the end of summer was making outdoor dining less attractive. “The restaurant industry is in a particularly difficult situation as the weather cools and outdoor patios become less desirable,” said Parsell.

“While many of our local restaurants have pivoted to take-out and delivery, deep concerns remain about how sustainable their operations are in the winter. Again, government relief and local spending (especially during the shoulder season) will go a long way to ensuring these businesses survive.”

Parsell said that the path out from the current economic and health conditions was going to be a long one locally.

“Our local road to recovery is long and will be measured in years, not months. We are hopeful that we will see a return to pre-COVID levels of business across the board by late 2021 – but that is anyone’s guess. Each industry and business has been impacted in unique ways and there is no silver bullet solution on the horizon. We are cautiously optimistic for a strong winter ski season, which will obviously look very different.”

Executive director of the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce (SCC), Beverly MacNaughton said that Sparwood chamber was being proactive in finding out how it can be help Sparwood businesses back to where they were before the pandemic.

“Some have been affected because of course they had to close, and now financially they’re trying to work up to where they were,” said MacNaughton, who explained the SCC was going to be circulating a survey among Sparwood businesses to best understand their needs.

Parsell said that in Fernie, the FCC would be continuing to advocate on behalf of businesses to the provincial and federal governments. “The realities on the ground point to an ongoing need for important tools like the wage subsidy, and a complete rethink of other tools like the commercial rent assistance program.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s been very, very tough’: B.C. chef echoes industry concerns of possible COVID re-closure
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