B.C. businesses ‘in need of life support’ due to coronavirus fallout

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate businesses across B.C.

A recent poll found that in the last two weeks alone, approximately half of the 1,900 employers surveyed saw revenue decreases of 75 per cent or more, while two-thirds recorded declines of 50 per cent or more.

“There’s no doubt governments want to find the right solution for businesses, but our members are saying, ‘time is of the essence,’” said Val Litwin, CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, which, along with BC Business Council and the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, commissioned what is to be a series of bi-weekly “pulse checks” on the business community.

Nearly one-third of businesses are planning to cancel contracts, or have had contracts or tenders cancelled, the survey found.

“Each passing day represents a critical juncture for many employers, as they are making difficult decisions and waiting for government support to arrive,” Greater Vancouver Board of Trade CEO Bridgitte Anderson said.

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“We need a bridge to the other side of this crisis that will help to hasten the economic recovery when the public health emergency subsides.”

More than 50 per cent of the survey respondents said they’re worried they won’t be able to pay off debts or that they won’t financially be able to restart once the pandemic ends.

About a quarter of respondents said they’re looking at shifting to online, digital, or e-commerce options, or have moved there already.

In releasing the survey results, the business advocacy groups listed their top recommendations to government, including providing direct payments to affected businesses; an immediate reduction in rates for employment insurance, company taxes, personal tax, GST, other government imposed levies or charges; and a further reduction of tax rates and defer payments for both B.C. businesses and homes.

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COVID-19: BC Hydro customers to get three months of bill relief

The B.C. government is offering bill relief for residential BC Hydro customers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Qualifying households will receive a credit of three times their average monthly bill over the past year to help cover their electricity costs. The credit does not have to be repaid.

“We are facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. People are out of work, and businesses are facing tough choices about whether they can stay open,” Premier John Horgan said.

“Giving people relief on their power bills lets them focus on the essentials, while helping businesses and encouraging critical industry to keep operating.”

Small businesses forced to close under the pandemic will have their bills forgiven for three months: April, May and June.

Major industries, like pulp mills and mines, will be able to defer 50 per cent of their bill payments for three months.

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The average residential customer’s bill is $159 per month, so the average credit provided will be $477. Some customers will also be eligible for BC Hydro’s existing Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills.

The utility reminded the public on Wednesday about a one-per-cent rate cut for all customers, following interim approval by the BC Utilities Commission.

That’s an average savings of $16 a year for residential users, $715 for commercial customers, and $230,000 for industrial users.

BC Hydro has seen an uptick in residential power use over the past few weeks, as more people shift to working from home to prevent the spread of the virus.

The residential electricity load in the last two weeks of March was up about nine per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Staff have seen evidence of power use peaking later in the morning, likely due to some residents not having to wake up as early, or at all, for school or work, as well as an earlier evening peak, possibly because of people cooking dinner earlier because they do not have to commute home.

The Crown corporation also updated its projected rate changes for the next three years. For now, it’s forecasting a 2.7-per-cent increase in April 2021, a 0.3-per-cent decrease in 2022, and a three-per-cent increase in 2023.

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Residents of B.C. retirement home issue COVID-19 message: ‘Please stay home, my health matters’

Residents at a retirement home in B.C.’s Interior are asking visitors to stay away, saying their health matters.

This week, the Victorian Retirement Residence in Vernon sent Global News video clips of several residents asking people to stay at home to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

The residence, which features just 19 units, says there’s been plenty of talk about coronavirus and social distancing, and how some are not following the two-metre guidelines.

“We’ve all been concerned about keeping our residents safe,” said Tracy Lambeth-Scott, co-owner of the residence.

“We’ve had a lot of conversation this week about people who do not stay home or use proper social distancing, and how it affects others, especially the elderly.”

On Wednesday, B.C. announced the province’s 14th coronavirus death. The latest fatality is the 11th to be linked to North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Centre.

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In an interview Global News, Lambeth-Scott said the biggest conversations residents are having centre on how some are choosing to not take COVID-19 seriously.

“The residents are feeling safe, because they can see all of the effort that we’re putting in to keeping them safe,” said Lambeth-Scott. “But it’s been a lot of effort.

“It’s a real change of the way we’re used to doing things.”

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Coronavirus: ‘Birthday parades’ replacing parties to make Okanagan kids feel special

It’s a fact of life throughout the nation: Young families having to self-isolate to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

An unwanted byproduct of having to stay at home, though, are cancelled birthday parties.

However, some parents are getting creative to make sure that no matter what, their kids still feel special.

One Okanagan parent, Jessica Kreb, said not having a birthday party for her son, Nixon, was hard news for him.

“We had to cancel his birthday party with friends, we had to cancel our family dinner tonight and that’s hard,” said Jessica. “I mean he is only six.”

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When the birthday parade rolled by, she said “this was a really cool way to mark his sixth birthday. It may be hailing, but that was the coolest thing I’ve seen all COVID season.”

Ben Kooner, meanwhile, is celebrating his fourth birthday with candy, his mom and a surprise visit from a parade wishing him the best

“I think like 20 people came and we didn’t know any of them so it was so nice,” said Taryn Kooner, Ben’s mom.

“He said he was having the best day ever.”

It isn’t only fun for the birthday boys, it’s also fun for the whole family while they are at home practicing social distancing.

“They get to make crafts, we get to have balloons — it’s a party every day,” said Jennifer Sterling with West Kelowna Party Parades.

In the time of social distancing, the idea started on social media. It only took a Facebook group to make a couple of kids feel special.

“We are all complete strangers coming together from West Kelowna to celebrate Ben and Nixon,” said Alida Steele with West Kelowna Party Parades.

“We already have a long line up of other children we will be celebrating.”

There will be plenty more drive-by birthday celebrations happening throughout the city in the coming months.

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Health officials won’t confirm how B.C. dentist who attended conference with COVID-19 outbreak died

B.C.’s top health officials won’t confirm whether a North Vancouver dentist who attended a dental conference earlier this month died of the novel coronavirus.

The Pacific Dental Conference, March 5-7, saw an outbreak of COVID-19 — prompting health officials to ask attendees of the event to self-isolate.

Dr. Denis Vincent, a healthy man in his 60s who attended the conference, died over the weekend of suspected coronavirus complications, sources tell Global News.

People who knew Vincent tell Global News he died alone at home.

“He was as fit as a fiddle,” friend Stacey Nixon said.

“He was talking about having a great time with his sons skiing on some very difficult slopes in Whilster. He passed away on Sunday — so two weeks.”

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