Opposition deputy leader Joey Hew says government will have to take a hard look at financial support for local businesses struggling to survive in the wake of Cayman’s continuing border closure.
“Our restaurants are hurting.. they are closing one by one. It’s been a very, very difficult period for them,” said Hew, while speaking on Cayman Crosstalk Thursday (23 Sept.).
His comment comes as popular hot spots like Rum Point close their doors indefinitely. The eatery announced it plans to close on 3 Oct., while Wharf Restaurant announced it would only be open to special events. Several others have closed since March 2020, when Cayman first introduced COVID-19 prevention measures.
Hew, who appeared on the radio show with Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart, lamented if government is going to continue to keep the borders closed, “We are going to have to look at some real stimulus support, financial support for medium and small businesses and, in particular, those who relied heavily on tourism industry like restaurants, hotels and Airbnbs.”
The George Town North MP said Cayman is now starting to see the real impact of the pandemic on small businesses.
“The immediate impact was on those who were directly involved in tourism. What has happened now is that trickle down effect has happened where those who were on the fringe of supporting tourism, those who supported the businesses that were in tourism… they are now starting to feel the crunch and all of the support that they received over the last year is now drying up,” he said.
Watch the interview here:
Government, he said, needs to introduce initiatives to help them keep afloat.
“Without a real reopening plan and without a fixed date we are going to stick to, government is going to have to have a hard look at how they’re going to support these businesses financially,” he said.
Hew, who was the former commerce minister under the Progressives-led government, said initiatives like mortgages at a low interest rates, delaying payments were put in place to help take the load off.
Now, he said, that support is “drying up”.
“Some of the hope that they [small businesses] were holding onto and perhaps even the support they were getting from their lending institutions etc, thinking that there’s an opening, and an end to this is… it’s now starting to dwindle and people are really starting to struggle to keep their doors open and, in particular, our restaurants,” he said.
Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Chris Saunders, speaking at government’s COVID-19 briefing later on Thursday, shared that from a cash standpoint, “we (government) are in a very good position to weather the storm” and incentives to support businesses are being worked on.
He said in the last Finance Committee $4 million was approved to support businesses and Commerce Minister André Ebanks is working on criteria to assist restaurants, similar to the assistance provided to water sports operators.