Victoria council will consider an emergency motion Thursday to help small businesses, tourism, and the arts and culture sector survive the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mayor Lisa Helps and Coun. Jeremy Loveday want city staff to examine all the fiscal, legislative and legal powers at the city’s disposal to protect the local economy, which has already been hard hit by people staying home and practising self-isolation.
“We want to provide as much certainty and hope as we can to the people who are feeling not only insecure about their health, but also insecure about their jobs, their companies or their events,” the motion states.
Helps said Monday that the situation is dire for some.
“What we’re hearing from businesses — particularly restaurants and small retail businesses — is they might not make it,” she said. “The very lifeblood of our community. That’s one of the things that makes Victoria so vibrant and alive. It’s those small, family-run businesses and they’re really struggling right now.”
Loveday said a couple of his friends in the food and beverage industry were laid off Monday. “And that’s a direct result of businesses closing because of the restrictions on gathering and the fact that tourists and visitors are staying home.”
Loveday didn’t want to predict what actions the city could take, but he said meetings are planned for this week to hear the ideas of residents and business owners.
Helps said one creative solution proposed by the business community is for people to buy gift cards from their favourite restaurant or business and save them for use at a later date. “If we go out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards, thousands of dollars worth of gift cards from not only local restaurants, but from local businesses, that will help with cash flow to get them through these difficult times,” she said.
Loveday added that he was heartened to see the community already rallying to support one another. He noted that a Facebook group — COVID-19 Coming Together — was closing in on 4,000 members, who are offering one another everything from help picking up groceries to setting up phone trees as a way to check in on those in need.
“I think that spirit is really shining through and that really is the strength of our community and how we’re going to get through this,” he said.