Nova Scotia beauty sector left out from latest COVID-19 supports
Omicron’s rapid spread has been bad on businesses in Nova Scotia.
On Monday, the province rolled out the Sector Impact Support Program, a one-time grant aimed to help businesses impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and renewed public health restrictions.
However, some businesses say the COVID-19 support program is too restrictive and doesn’t include them.
“I would say this is probably the worst Christmas season that we’ve experienced in my 37 years in business,” said Imagine Spa and Salon owner, Ian Marc.
Eligible businesses can apply for a one-time grant of $2,500, $5,000 or $7,500 based on gross payroll cost or gross revenue in 2021.
The Cosmetology Association of Nova Scotia says those in the beauty industry don’t qualify for the Sector Impact Support Program. It says the program guidelines are too restrictive.
“I’ve sent multiple requests to the premier (Tim Houston) requesting cosmetology be included with no response,” says Dana Sharkey, the association's executive director. “We’ve been getting multiple calls daily from members who are not surviving financially and are unable to meet basic needs."
The Omicron wave has created a long list of cancellations at Imagine Spa and Salon, where Marc says business is now is down by more than 50 per cent.
“To be able to find ways to support our employees through these very difficult times and stay in business is something that I take home with me every night,” said Marc. “But it’s slow and when the phone rings now, my thoughts go to, ‘Who is cancelling?' As opposed to, 'Who is booking?’”
Nova Scotia’s minister of economic development said the province has heard the concerns from the cosmetology industry. Minister Susan Corkum-Greek says they are committed to helping ease the economic burden facing those in the sector but couldn’t say if the government will adjust the protocols in the impact support program to include those in the salon and spa business.
“We will be working with that sector and we want to get a good sense of the impacts,” said Corkum-Greek. “I’m not prepared to say at this point whether it will result in adjustments to the Sector Impact Support Program or whether there will need to be conversation about separate programs, but it is very front of mind.”
Liberal Economic Critic Fred Tilley says the province's business support grant leaves too many Nova Scotians behind and it needs to adjust the protocols to allow businesses some financial relief during the Omicron surge.
“It’s a complete oversight of the Houston government to leave such an integral part of our business community out of these supports,” said Tilley. "Self-employed and small business owners are calling on the government to be included."
Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission Executive Director Tim Rissesco agrees and says this fifth wave of the pandemic is hurting businesses.
“Hopefully it’s the last wave but nobody knows,” said Rissesco. “If we want to have all these restaurants and cafe and stores survive, we’re going to have to do a better job of supporting them from a government point of view over the next few weeks.”
Since Monday, the province says 639 sector impact support grants have been submitted.