SAULT STE. MARIE -- The City of Sault Ste. Marie is hosting a series of conference calls, to find the best ways to support local businesses in wake of COVID-19.

The purpose of the calls is to relay information about existing supports, understand the needs and concerns of local businesses and to explore other support opportunities.

"We really wanted to make sure that businesses were aware of all the supports that are available and then open up a dialogue with our local businesses so they can reach out to us," said Tom Vair, the city’s Deputy CAO.

Vair has received many questions about what supports exist, as well as how long a business owner can expect to receive them.

"We’re also hearing of several ways the city can help support our small businesses, directly from them,” said Vair.
"Potentially for the PUC (Public Utilities Commission), or the city, some ways we might be able to provide some relief for businesses, so certainly we got that information and we’ll be discussing that as management teams."

In addition to the city, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce has been trying to help connect business owners to local support systems.

"They do, to a large extent, live paycheque to paycheque as some employees do, so this situation for them is really quite critical," said Rory Ring, Sault Chamber of Commerce CEO.

"I encourage them to reach out to the services that are being provided."

Ring says many have been left wondering how long they can operate, if the COVID-19 pandemic continues for an extended period of time.

Despite these concerns, he says there may be some silver linings.

"I think this will actually force many, many organizations, whether it’s a business, a municipality, a provincial or federal government administration, to think now creatively on how they deliver services," said Ring.   

The city of Sault Ste. Marie has also set up a hotline, which small business owners can call at 705-574-1230.

Vair adds the hotline will help the city better connect businesses with supports and receive constructive feedback.