The daily numbers are showing improvement. New cases of COVID-19 are down, recoveries are up, deaths are down and, some sort of future with COVID seems possible. Cities are slowly, carefully reopening – shopping, recreation, and non-essential work are resuming. And a new facet of the pandemic rears its ugly head: welcome the COVID-19 surcharge.
Not as dangerous to one’s health as the actual virus, but just as insidious. Various elements of the reopening process are adapting to the ‘new reality’ and passing the incumbent expenses on to consumers.
At the peak of the lockdown, when cities and towns essentially shut down, we were ‘all together in this’. The sense of camaraderie was palpable; everyone felt for those who lost their jobs, and those whose businesses were in serious danger of going tits up. Most folks that I know were pleased that the Canadian government bent over backwards to help businesses stay afloat, even offering interest-free loans through the Canadian Emergency Business Account.
In addition, the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy helped Canadian employers whose businesses have been affected by COVID-19 to the tune of a subsidy of 75% of employee wages for up to 12 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020, to June 6, 2020.
All of these funds came from Canadian tax coffers; Canadian businesses pay taxes and therefore should be aided during the pandemic.
But now that we are starting to see things getting back on track some businesses, as they reopen, are trying to download the additional costs directly to consumers. I guess we really weren’t all in this together after all.
Many workers lost their jobs, or considerable amounts of income (Emergency government assistance was available to them as well as businesses), during the pandemic. But they are not in a position to levy a surcharge should they be rehired. Things have a way of working out. As the economy reopens many consumers will find themselves in a financial position that won’t allow them to spend as they did before the pause. Certainly not if they are expected to pay a COVID-19 surcharge on top. Businesses adding a surcharge may be cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
A recent poll of British Columbians shows that 62% of those asked are against the concept of COVID-19 surcharges. Although many are anticipating increased prices.
COVID-19 surcharges and even significant price increases upon reopening should not be tolerated by consumers, we’ve all paid enough.