A boss of an event management SME in Bas-Saint-Laurent had to apply for the Canadian Emergency Benefit (CEP) when his sales collapsed like a house of cards.
“I stopped giving myself salary dividends. I switched to the Canadian Emergency Benefit because we had nothing left, ”says Charles Frenette, president of Animation de l’Est, in Rivière-du-Loup with emotion.
Like many SMEs, Animation de l’Est was in good financial health before COVID-19. Mobile disco, wedding, tableware rental, his boss had a turnover of $ 464,000 last year, which is quite a feat for an independent company in his area, he says.
But when clients stopped hosting parties, no one was calling on him, and his business dream turned into a nightmare.
“I live modestly. I sold my convertible. I had a paid spa, I sold it. My financial institution started asking me to pay them again, they said: “You have to pay your mortgage, it’s been six months, sorry”, ”says the 41-year-old businessman.
Since the crisis, Charles Frenette’s business has been hanging by a thread. His financial troubles always stuck in his head.
“I have an $ 80,000 line of credit. I have $ 9,000 left. I have no work in front of me. Do we risk disappearing from the map? I may fight like a devil in holy water, I think so, ”laments the man who gave work to twenty fitters, technicians, decorators.
With the approach of the cold season, no boss wants to be accused of having organized a Christmas party which would have violated the sanitary rules, which paralyzes its activities.
“I don’t have a business executive who wants to get on the news because he had a Christmas party that turned into bloom,” he sighs.
At the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the vice-president for Quebec, François Vincent, is inundated with stories like this one, which makes him fear the worst for Quebec’s economic vitality.
“More than 82% of Quebec SMEs are concerned about the second wave that is coming, because half of them fear they will not get through it,” he worries.
According to him, governments should better tailor financial assistance to SMEs to help them get their heads above water.
“It breaks your heart to see an entrepreneur so well established in his region who sees his world collapse overnight. Aid must be adapted to businesses to reach those directly affected by the economic restrictions, but excluded from the specific aid offered in the red zone, ”concludes François Vincent.
More than 62% of SMEs have still not returned to normal sales levels, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.