Durham Region forms economic task force to support businesses through pandemic

As the COVID-19 crisis has forced some businesses to close their doors, a new task force has been formed to connect with key stakeholders across the Region and respond to the urgent needs of businesses.

According to a media release, the Durham Economic Task Force came together rapidly last week when reports of business impacts were just beginning. It is a collaborative response team made up of Durham Region’s Economic Development and Tourism team; Business Advisory Centre of Durham; all of Durham’s chambers of commerce and boards of trade; as well as local municipal economic development teams.

The members have also been engaging with other key stakeholders, such as local business improvement areas (BIAs).

“Last week, this team surveyed the business community to understand the types of impacts they are experiencing. The task force was extremely thankful for the hundreds of responses they received, providing detailed reports of significant and immediate financial impacts, and the types of information and support needed to help them navigate through this crisis,” reads a media release.

“Thanks to this crucial early feedback, this team is taking swift action to connect businesses the resources they need urgently for themselves, their workers and affected families during this challenging time.

“Our lives look very different today than they did a few weeks ago. For many of you, COVID-19 has forced you to make the difficult decision to temporarily close the doors of your business,” added Regional Chair John Henry.

“At Wednesday’s Regional Council meeting, we will be proposing a temporary, emergency loan program for our local Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade. We want to make sure that these organizations are fully staffed and available to provide direct support and resources to business owners now, when they need our support more than ever.”

The Durham Economic Task Force’s immediate priorities are to:

  • Advocate for the urgent needs of Durham Region’s business community to the provincial and federal governments.
  • Provide resources and information about business supports available from various levels of government—from applying for government relief, to payment flexibility from local utilities such as gas, hydro, and water.
  • Work with other levels of government and stakeholders to develop and implement support programming for business owners, affected employees, and their families, who are experiencing financial impacts as a result of COVID-19.
  • Provide direct support to help guide small businesses through the process of accessing emergency financial assistance and programming from all levels of government.
  • Promote Durham small businesses that are still open, particularly the local food and agri-businesses who are offering safe, no-contact delivery and pick-up services.

“The Durham Economic Task Force has one goal: to deliver the urgently needed information, support, and resources to our business community to help them get through this difficult time. We heard what you urgently need, and we’re all working to make sure you’re supported,” said Simon Gill, the Region’s director of economic development and tourism.

“We’ve put together a comprehensive website to share timely information and resources to support you, your workers and affected families. I am inspired to see how our business community has come together, showing acts of kindness and solidarity and supporting one another. One day soon, we will shift to provide additional services for re-starting, re-opening, and re-launching. We will get through this together.”

The new website, InvestDurham.ca/CovidResponse, gathers the latest resources and information for businesses in Durham Region regarding government programs, services and supports. This resource will be updated daily to make sure it has current information about business supports available, federal and provincial financial programs, how to access funds, and employee/employer resources.

If businesses have questions, they should reach out to their local chamber of commerce, board of trade, BIA, Business Advisory Centre Durham, or their local municipal economic development office.

The Durham Economic Task Force will work to ensure Durham’s economy comes out strong and proves that it is more resilient than ever.

Residents can get the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 in Durham Region at durham.ca/NovelCoronavirus.