WINGHAM, ONT. -- The Gift Chest just celebrated 30 years in business last week.

But owner Marla Valdez fears her gift shop in downtown Wingham, may not make it through the next three months. “It’s a little stressful. There’s been lots of tears and and a lot of stress,” she says.

Valdez is doing as much online selling and delivery as she can, since she had to close her doors to customers due to COVID-19 restrictions. But she’s only making about 30 per cent of her normal revenue, with 100 per cent of her bills left to pay, this month, next month, and the month after that.

The worst part, says Valdez, is she doesn’t qualify for any of the government programs. As she’s bringing in some revenue, she doesn’t qualify for the $2,000 per month Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB). She also doesn’t qualify for the small Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), consisting of a $40,000 interest-free loan, because she needs to have paid out $50,000 in salaries last year.

As she runs the shop almost entirely by herself, she can't apply, along with thousands of other owner-operated small businesses in Canada.

“I would like Huron County and area and small businesses everywhere to survive this, and they won’t if the government doesn’t step up and look at the little, little people like us,” she says.

Canada has more than 1.1 million small businesses. Over half of those have one to four employees.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is lobbying the government to change the criteria around both the CERB and CEBA, to let small business owners like Valdez qualify.