With stricter public health measures implemented this week in Alberta to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, members of Ponoka town council are calling on the provincial government to increase funding to small rural businesses that are once again restricted to take out and delivery service only.
“The financial assistance programs currently being offered to small rural businesses in Alberta are not enough. And these funding programs should be administered at the municipal level because we know our businesses and our communities best,” said Town of Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett in a video statement released Friday, May 14.
The video includes statements from all members of council, including Coun. Clayton Nelson who said, “We applaud our small businesses in Ponoka for doing their part to help fight this pandemic (by closing their doors to indoor dining). But now they need the provincial government to do its part to help them survive the impact of these restrictions on their bottom line.” ‘
“The impact of COVID restrictions on small rural businesses is much greater than on businesses in the cities. City businesses still have access to hundreds of thousands of people once they’re restricted to take-out service only,” said Bonnett.
“That’s not the case in small towns like Ponoka where our largest tourist attraction, the Ponoka Stampede, will likely either be majorly scaled back or possibly cancelled again this year,” he said.
“There’s a real risk that some of our small businesses may be forced to shut their doors during this pandemic if more financial assistance isn’t provided to them.”
Bonnett noted the financial impacts of pandemic restrictions on rural businesses also have a much greater impact on rural communities than in the cities.
“Losing two or three businesses to the financial impacts of COVID has an enormous impact on rural communities compared to larger cities whose tax base consists of many more businesses,” he said.
In the video, members of council stated they are writing letters to Premier Jason Kenney and to Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr requesting more financial support for small rural businesses in Ponoka and across Alberta.
“Town council will also be working to get other rural municipalities on board to help lobby the Province for more financial support for small rural businesses,” said Nelson.
Bonnett encouraged Ponoka residents to shop local as much as possible and order take-out or curbside pick-up from local restaurants and businesses as often as possible to support their local businesses through the pandemic. ‘
Members of council also thanked health care workers, children who are now schooling at home, and all Ponoka residents who continue to follow provincial health restrictions to keep the community safe during the pandemic.
“You are truly heroes in our community, and your efforts are making a difference,” said Coun. Carla Prediger. “Please continue to support each other, be kind and understanding to each other, and we will get through this together,” she said.
– Submitted by the Town of Ponoka