Impacts of COVID-19 for businesses. And now?

The crisis we are experiencing today as well as all the challenges we will have to overcome collectively cannot be compared to any situation that has arisen for more than a century. Reaching all spheres of our society, we must all exercise caution, resilience, flexibility and courage to adapt to the situation and find the best solutions. This is the new reality experienced by Quebec businesses of all sizes, which have been hit hard by a major health crisis, creating a difficult economic situation.
Q hat are the measures put in place to limit the spread of the disease at work? How do we make sure that companies respond to customer demand, that salaries can be paid, that accounts are paid, that the company can hold on until the worst is behind us?

In this context, the need for responses and support must be commensurate with the events that companies are undergoing. We salute in passing the governments of Quebec and Canada who, every day, make important decisions and implement emergency measures. This will make an important difference for all our citizens, whether young, retired, workers or entrepreneurs.

We can be proud as a society to have this will and this capacity to stick together to face adversity, in addition to being able to count on elected officials responsible and united in the face of this crisis.

All Quebec businesses, ranging from local shops around the corner, to a major employer in a region, must put their shoulder to the wheel as much as they can, which they have already started to do. But the global economy’s brutal halt is too important for them to pass through without the continuous and predictable help from the various levels of government, especially since the financial markets are at the same time severely affected.

This is why we remind you that the simplicity, speed, complementarity and effectiveness of government assistance will make the difference for all Quebec employers, and will allow them to maintain their activities or restart them when the situation allows.

To stay afloat, our businesses affected by a slowdown or a cessation of activity notably need liquidity to pay wages and meet their obligations to their suppliers. Contribution holidays to the Health Services Fund (FSS) and other salary costs, in addition to a prolonged moratorium on taxes, would allow them to hold up better. Governments must also provide financial assistance measures both for the self-employed and for entrepreneurs who cannot continue their activities.

In addition, certain economic sectors such as telecommunications / technological services and the food industry, as well as other types of essential products and services, are essential services for the population. They must be the subject of particular attention from governments throughout the crisis. Moreover, the closure of schools and daycare services is an obvious headache for working families, thus contributing to a major absenteeism issue.

For our businesses that continue to provide products and services, we must offer financial assistance for the acquisition or increase of capacity of technological means to facilitate teleworking. Measures to deal with absenteeism are also to be considered in sectors where telework is not possible. The extension of permits for temporary foreign workers who are already on Quebec territory could have positive effects, particularly for the agrifood sector. Other avenues could also be explored to bring in additional foreign workers by setting up special conditions with regard to health aspects. We can certainly be creative and responsible in this regard.

We must give priority to programs that will help businesses while being careful not to increase their debt, because it is the post-crisis that we are preparing today. In this context, measures to accelerate business innovation may also allow them to restart effectively. Finally, the three orders of government (federal, provincial, municipal) must make sure to delay the various non-essential regulatory compliance obligations.

In short, we must have the means to allow the continuity of the necessary operations and, at the same time, to ensure an adequate return to normal at the right time. This is why we must give the companies and workers concerned the means to prepare for a possible exit from the raging storm.

Yves-Thomas Dorval, President and Chief Executive Officer, Quebec Employers Council (CPQ)

Charles Milliard, President and Chief Executive Officer, Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce (FCCQ)

François Vincent, Vice-President, Quebec, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)

Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM)

Véronique Proulx, President and CEO, Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters (MEQ)

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