As we find ourselves in the midst of shutdowns and uncertainty, I often hear from anxious business owners as everyone tries to navigate the complex web of application forms, reporting, and now Canada Revenue Agency audits, for the various federal programs.

Small businesses are the backbone of Kelowna-Lake Country. The revenue they generate is spent in our community helping make it the wonderful place it is.

I hear real-life examples of hardworking entrepreneurs sitting at the kitchen table, crunching the numbers. They’re watching their profit margins shrink while expenses continue to pile up.

A local resident who is a professional hair stylist brought an issue up to me. Normally, stylists can operate by stacking, which involves efficiently rotating between two clients. But to meet new safety protocols, her salon is using a three-day work-week rotation. She now must work 12-hour days, taking her away from her family, just to bring in the revenue that she would normally make in eight hours.

Another constituent is a registered massage therapist who is working longer days due to client distancing and cleaning protocols.

In both instances, these women are not eligible for aid programs, unless they dramatically reduce their bookings.

We knew various federal programs for businesses would end this fall. Parliament and all committees could have been working all summer, as we are doing now, to come up with the best solutions.

Instead, the government chose to prorogue Parliament. This forced us to deal with expiring programs at their very end, or in some cases, after they ended, bringing much uncertainty to business owners.

On Sept. 30, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance closed to new applications. Ten days later, on Oct. 9, the government announced the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) benefit would take over.

CERS will now allow business owners to apply directly, instead of having to go through their commercial landlord. This is something the Official Opposition had asked for.

When the government introduced a 10% wage subsidy, we fought to increase this, hearing from businesses that the subsidy was too low. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will now be extended to July. It will have a graduating scale depending on lost revenue, something the Opposition also asked for.

On Nov. 3, our Conservative Opposition put forward a motion that included postponing small business audits until at least June 2021 and increasing flexibility in support programs

Our motion was supported by other Opposition parties but not the governing Liberals. I’ve been speaking with accountants and bookkeepers mystified that the CRA is auditing businesses on government pandemic programs while the programs are still in place.

If you need any assistance with programs or have thoughts to share, reach out. Stay Well.

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country. Phone: 250-470-5075. Email: tracy.gray@parl.gc.ca.