The federal government’s budget isn’t flashy but it offers funding that could aid small businesses on their continued road to recovery and that came as welcome news to members of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the things we saw in the budget is this Employment Insurance hiring credit, which extends the work-sharing program some of our members are using,” said Dave Bond, chamber vice-president and chair of the taxation committee.
“It enables businesses to keep employees and provide assistance with paying salaries.”
The federal government will spend $10-million on a brief extension of that program, which several area manufacturers tapped into during the height of the recession.
Roughly 525,000 small businesses, on the other hand, will be eligible for a new temporary hiring credit that the budget says will reduce their collective 2011 payroll costs by about $165 million.
The credit of up to $1,000 is applied against a small employer’s increase in its 2011 EI premiums over those paid in 2010.
It is available to employers whose total EI premiums were at or below $10,000 in 2010.
“We were also looking for incentives that may help businesses in our area,” said Bond, noting they didn’t come up empty handed with that search.
“There’s $100 million of renewed funding for research and development of clean energy. We also see funding in terms of innovation in specific areas of research and incentives for forestry innovation and manufacturing.”
Among some of the new endeavours is an $80-million, three-year pilot project designed to support collaborative projects between colleges and small and medium-sized businesses to speed up the adoption of information and communication technologies.
Chamber members only had a short period of time to flip through the budget, and dig out issues they believe could be relevant to area businesses but what they saw in the 352-page document was just as placating to them as some critics have said it should be to Opposition parties angling to call an election.
It wasn’t, however, completely satisfying.
“We looked for some specific issues that we’d been (looking to be) addressed,” said Bond.
“We wanted to see an organized crime task force, and we looked for incentives for addressing the need for affordable housing,” said Bond, noting they were just in the precursory stage of sifting through the budget, and there may be other measures that meet their needs.
“Once we start delving into the details, we will be able to go meet with the membership and bring things to their attention,” he said.
That process should get underway, if the budget is passed, in the next couple of months.
Seniors, students take note
UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College students will be impacted by the new federal budget introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday:
• Among some of the measures is doubling the
in-study income exemption from $50 per week to $100 per week. This will assist approximately 100,000 students each year by allowing them to work more without affecting their loans.
• More graduating students who don’t have parents who can pay for their education may benefit from a re-jigging of loan eligibility terms.
• The eligibility threshold for loans will be increased and harmonized with the threshold used in calculating need for full-time students. For example, a single part-time student from Ontario can come from a family that has an annual income threshold of $40,235, as opposed to the current $26,100, and still qualify for loans.
•The in-study interest rate for part-time students will be reduced from prime plus 2.5 per cent to zero, bringing them in line with full-time students.
•Want incentive to be a doctor or nurse in the middle of nowhere? The feds have come up with some, in the form of student loan destruction. Doctors who move to rural areas will get $8,000 a year, up to $40,000 total, in loans forgiven, while nurses will get $2,000 a year, up to $20,000.
Seniors will also see some direct benefits:
•The Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors will be boosted with up to $600 of extra money a year for single people who earn less than $4,400 from their savings and other non-government income. It will go up to $840 per couple who earn less than $7,360 a year. The government says the new money will cost $300 million a year and reach 680,000 seniors.
• The Conservatives have zoomed right by freedom 65, let alone 55, by promising to get rid of mandatory retirement ages in workplaces like banks, and other federally regulated industries.
• They are adding $50-million in funding over two years to extend existing training and employment programs for unemployed older workers in small communities.