'I'm hoping the government will give us more time': Pandemic subsidies vital to Barrie businesses
Despite its brightly coloured jungle gym and blocks, there have been some dark days at Barrie's Kaleidoscope Play Centre since the pandemic began.
"It was really hard. Sometimes we'd just almost give up," says owner Sergei Asseyev.
He credits federal wage and rent subsidy programs for seeing him through the pandemic.
More than 200,000 business owners have tapped into the rent subsidy, while 400,000 have received wage help.
But after several extensions, both programs are set to expire this weekend, leaving some business owners in a bind.
"I'm really hoping the government will still give us a little bit more time," Asseyev says. "Just to go back to normal operations because it's still about 60 to 70 per cent down."
Capacity restrictions on after-school programs and children's birthday parties are complicating things for Kaleidoscope.
Asseyev says being without the financial aid will be challenging, and he'll have to figure out new ways to draw in families.
Downtown, the proprietor of Groovy Tuesdays Bistro, says wage and rent programs help make all the difference after a series of forced closures.
"I had to pay my rent. I had to pay bills that were still outstanding and people that I pay throughout the year and contracts that we have," says Melanie Barrett.
"Without (subsidies), I would be out of business," she adds.
Running the bistro remains difficult with limitations on the number of people she can welcome inside to eat, along with some staffing shortages.
But Barrett says she's feeling encouraged heading into what is typically the bistro's busiest time of year.
While Barrett is grateful for the help she has received, she's reluctant to take another round if it were offered.
"As long as we continue to get busier and get back to where we were, absolutely not would I use them anymore. 'Because other businesses may need them more," she concludes.