Huu-ay-aht First Nations is pleased to learn this week that the Nation now qualifies for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy that was announced by the Federal Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, the federal government introduced the program, offering employers who qualify a subsidy that would cover up to 75 per cent of their employees’ wages for 12 weeks. Businesses must be able to show they have suffered revenue declines of 30 per cent or more as a result of COVID-19. At the time, the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses did not meet the criteria for this subsidy because the limited partnership structure is not considered an “eligible employer”.
Huu-ay-aht immediately took steps to reverse this decision, including working with the area MP Gord Johns in Ottawa and an aggressive media campaign. The Nations’ efforts paid off, as the Assistant Deputy Minister of Lands and Economic Development Kelley Blanchette notified Chiefs across Canada, including Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. that the Nation now qualified.
“This is very good news for our Nation and our businesses,” explained Chief Dennis. “It just goes to show it’s worth standing up for what you believe in. Because our nation, and others across the country, raised the alarm about unfair criteria, hundreds of jobs will be saved.”
Chief Dennis also pointed out that this highlights the importance of the Nation forming their COVID-19 task force. Because that task force was in place when they learned they were not qualified they were able to come up with a plan and take immediate action.
The Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses was optimistic that the criteria would be changed, therefore, no one has lost their job because of COVID-19. That meant HGB was carrying a significant amount of staffing costs in hopes that the subsidy would become available. That was not sustainable for a long period of time, so this decision to extend the eligibility to include Indigenous government-owned corporations was a critical step. It will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.
HGB will qualify for the subsidy based on its estimates that economic impact will be far greater than the required 30 per cent. In March, the Group of Businesses saw a 34 per cent decrease in forestry revenue, 44 per cent drop in sales at the Market in Bamfield, and a 65 per cent drop in their hospitality revenue. HGB employs 55 full-time equivalent positions during its peak season. The wage subsidy will be applied to these sectors. The Nation is developing an economic recovery plan. The wage subsidy will go a long way to help keep citizens employed and businesses operating during a difficult economic period in Canada.