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Thunder Bay business survey finds 45 per cent closed due to COVID-19

Area businesses have a mixed attitude toward federal assistance programs

THUNDER BAY — Nearly half the Thunder Bay-area businesses that responded to a survey about the impact of COVID-19 had temporarily closed their doors by the end of April because of restrictions related to the pandemic.

It's one of the key findings from an online questionnaire launched by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the North superior Workforce Planning Board, the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission and the Northern Policy Institute.

Seventy-seven businesses participated in the first round of the survey, the results of which were released Tuesday.

Forty-five per cent said they had to shut down, while 28 per cent had reduced staff.  Nearly one-quarter of the respondents were continuing to operate remotely.

The survey also found that more than 91 per cent had experienced a loss of income, and more than half had restricted their spending because of the uncertainty.

Forty-five per cent said their business equity/value had fallen, and forty per cent said their debt load had increased.

COVID-19 is seen by nearly one-third of the business owners as posing a serious lisk for their long-term prospects, meaning it could force a permanent closure.

Interestingly, however, three percent experienced an increase in sales, and one percent saw their business equity/value increase as a result of the pandemic.

Area businesses have a mixed attitude toward the federal government's COVID-19 programs for employers.

Only 40 per cent are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, but 55 per cent are very or somewhat satisfied with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Chamber of Commerce President Charla Robinson said the survey results demonstrate the need for government supports tailored for this area.

"The results clearly show that our businesses have been hard hit in the early days of COVID-19. This information is vital to our advocacy for support programs that will help with local business survival and recovery," Robinson said.

The five-minute survey will be repeated each month through September in the city and district communities.

Charles Cirtwill, CEO of the Northern Policy Institute, said it's important for businesses to continue their participation, in order to provide data to identify the impact of COVID-19 over time.

The first set of results is available at

The second round of the survey is available at



Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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