The retail sector in San Fernando has been hit hard. Small and medium businesses are calling for a deferral of electricity bills and rents from landlords as they shut down operations and stay indoors for the next two weeks all in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
President of the Greater San Fernando Chamber Kiran Singh told the Newsday on Tuesday, “Businesses are under pressure.” He said in San Fernando between 40 to 50 per cent of employees have been sent home. He said few employees have agreed to pay employees reduced wages and some have been asked to utilise this next two weeks as vacation leave.
He said with no income, increased cost for additional security to protect their closed premises, taxes and other payments due at the end of the first quarter, “we are in a predicament.” He said non-essential business owners have been negotiating with landlords to “share the burden” by deferring rents until they are able to recoup.
He said he was happy with the initiative by the banking sector to reduce rates and the insurance companies to defer payments, but the SME sector is badly affected and is hoping for some assistance during this crisis.
“A lot of taxes become due at the end of the first quarter, green fund levy, business levy and so on. We are asking for some sort of deferral, some leeway in paying. We are not asking for a tax break but for some temporary relief.”
“We also have to pay all our public utilities bills, internet bills. I have seen the TT Electricity Commission (TTEC) saying they will not disconnect residential customers, but what about commercial and industrial customers?”
Singh pointed out that the rates commercial and industrial customers pay are way higher than residential rates and claims a big chunk of their monthly debts.
“We are asking TTEC to share this burden to assist the business sector, not to forgive payment, we are simply asking for a deferral on fees.” He said different chambers have been speaking with TTEC, “but there is no positive response. TTEC is a big stumbling block for us.”