VICTORIA -- Rents were due five days ago, not only for residents but also for small business owners as well.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, there has been a drastic drop in business, or in some cases, no business at all for stores across Vancouver Island.

With no income, business owners are struggling to afford to pay for commercial rent.

The Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) and the Victoria Chamber of Commerce have now turned to the provincial government, calling for grants for local business owners.

Those grants would cover ‘hard costs’, like rent and utility bills during the pandemic.

“When we get to the point when we know there’s an end date in mind, and things look like they might return to normal, it may be more viable for businesses to look at some of the no interest loan options that are available,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

“Right now, that’s not a viable option for many small and medium-sized businesses because they are already leveraged to the hilt.”

He went on to say that many of these businesses have already spent money on their summer inventories and that their lines of credit are already fully extended.

If they have to take on more debt they may never survive, Bray warns.

“Many small businesses are fearful that they may never reopen,” he said.

Some of the most vulnerable businesses during the pandemic are restaurants and gift shops, two industries that employ many people in Victoria, especially during the summer tourist season. But, right now, business has slowed to a crawl.

So far, the DVBA and Victoria Chamber of Commerce have not heard back from the provincial government. The organizations say they don’t expect to anytime soon.

The groups say they just want to be part of a collective voice that has been making the same calls for help to the government.

“When a recovery begins, it’s important that these businesses are still around,” said Bray. “Everyone needs a job to go back to.”