A drive through some Langley neighbourhoods found many residents are using the enforced break during the COVID-19 crisis to get ahead on home projects.
Among them, Langley City resident Ken Gracey, who was trimming his front lawn with a string trimmer Monday morning, March 23rd.
“It’s perfect day,” Gracey said during a brief break from his labours to chat with the Langley Advance Times.
Gracey has a small business that installs built-in vacuum systems, but there hasn’t been much work to speak of since the coronavirus arrived in B.C.
“It’s just dropped off,” Gracey explained.
“People don’t want you in their house [for fear of catching the virus].”
Gracey has heard there are government assistance programs for small businesses shut down by the virus, but he wasn’t sure if he qualified.
“I’m going to talk to my accountant.”
A few blocks away, retiree Len Hall was running a pressure washer, blasting grime off his driveway and the wheel wells of his RV.
“I’m getting caught up on my ‘honey do’ list,” Hall grinned.
Like many older Langley residents, he has chosen to self-isolate during the outbreak, staying at home and social distancing by keeping a careful two-metre distance from visitors.
In other Langley yards, owners could be seen clearing out garages and washing cars, while kids were playing on backyard trampolines, swings and slides, the only options they have, now that all public playgrounds have been closed.
Parents were taking their children for walks, and dog owners had their pets out for strolls, with most appearing to follow the social distancing rule.
Many Langley businesses have been shuttered, with a few being operated from home.
Construction sites were still active, for the most part.
Under the guidelines issued by the province on the weekend, all work sites must meet rules for social distancing as well as restricting gatherings to less than 50 people.
As well, site meetings must be held outdoors or in open spaces, and more handwashing stations must be provided on site.
On Monday, the B.C. government announced a $5 billion aid package for individuals and businesses affected by the economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions.
Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James said $2.8 billion will go to people, and $2.2 billion will go to small businesses, with payments flowing even as the details of the programs are worked out.
It includes aid for renters so no one will be evicted due to the coronavirus measures that have shut down much of the economy, Horgan said. It also includes $1.7 billion for additional health care to deal with the illnesses as a result of the virus.
James said the B.C. benefit will include a one-time $1,000 tax-free benefit to people who are unable to work, including those who are eligible for Employment Insurance and other federal aid. Application will be simple, with everyone who qualifies for expanded EI payments also eligible for the B.C. payments, which are targeted to begin in May.
A range of provincial tax payments are being delayed until Sept. 30 for businesses who collect them, including sales tax, fuel and tobacco tax revenue. B.C.’s next carbon tax increase, set for April 1, is also delayed until next September.
James said $500 million has also been earmarked to cover urban commercial property taxes to help businesses recover and get through the year as their business recovers. The finance ministry has allotted $1.5 billion to help businesses recover once the pandemic subsides.