The UCM employers’ association wants financial assistance for businesses affected by the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis to be continued through summer, noting that despite the gradual reopening, they are not flourishing and many expect to keep losing money in June.
The UCM, which represents small and medium-sized businesses and independent consultants, is also calling for a solution to the issue of rentals.
In a survey it conducted among independent businesses in Wallonia and Brussels to evaluate the first week of the reopening, the association found that only 8% of the 812 respondents felt they had had more customers than a normal week in May. Seventeen percent found that the week had been normal, but a whopping 75% said they had received few customers.
Businesses said they were prepared to apply social distancing and had taken various measures : signs at the entry to their stores and use of sanitisers (88%), marking the ground to enforce physical distancing (48%), making masks compulsory (46%), making masks available (27%) and visits by appointment (25%). They also said they had to remind about 55% of clients of the sanitary rules.
Given the low level of activity during this first week, 84% of businesses feel their activities will no longer be profitable by June and they could need to apply for financial support under the Droit passerelle (“Bridge Law”) which provides assistance to businesses affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
“Only 17% of respondents do not have any cash-flow problems,” UCM said, adding that “28% feel they quickly need between 5,000 and 10,000 euros to defray their expenses, 10% are unable to pay all their rent and 27% have reached agreements with their landlords.”
To be able to stay in business, “63% will reduce their salaries, 57% will reduce their investments, 50% their advertising budget and 50% will take less stock (reduced collections),” the survey found.
The results of the survey have led UCM to call for the Bridge Law to be extended through the summer, for cashflow tools developed by the region to be publicized and for a structural solution to be developed for rental leases.
It proposes that landlords who forego 50% of their rent should be granted a property tax exemption. The remaining 50% to be paid would be advanced by the Region and tenants would be given a period of two years to reimburse the advances.