We don’t know how long the social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 will last, but many businesses have already had to close. Others have chosen closure for the safety of their customers and employees. Others continue to run, but with increasing concern about how this unfolding situation will affect them in the long run.

Small businesses, in particular, need support to make it through uncertain times. Many small businesses don’t have significant funds in reserve and depend on an ongoing stream of revenue to stay afloat. By closing their doors temporarily, they’re helping to keep their customers and employees safe. But the loss of income makes it tough to cover on-going expenses like rent and salaries.

If you’re in a position financially to do so, there are some things you can do to ensure your favourite businesses have the cash they need to make it through lean times.

Buy a gift card for later. Many small businesses that have had to close are offering gift certificates for when they open back up. Look on business’s websites and social accounts, or give them a call.

Skip the refund and take a rain cheque. If you paid in advance for an event, such as theatre or concert tickets, a class, or a service, consider taking a credit for the future instead of asking for a refund. These businesses will really appreciate not having to issue refunds right now.

Shop (local) online. Local shops may have closed their (physical) doors, but some still run online shops, a few created recently as a response to the current circumstances. Look for them on social media or check the business’s website for links to their online marketplace.

Look for virtual classes. People who work in training or professional development are finding creative ways to move their instruction online. Even though your local gym is closed, your favourite yoga teacher or personal trainer may be hosting a live class online. Same goes for people who offer professional training. Now may be a good time to brush up on your skills through an online course.

Get take-out or delivery. Many restaurants and breweries are now offering takeout service as they’ve had to close their dining rooms. Support these local spots by getting your food or drinks to go and enjoying them at home.

Of course, many of us have also had our income affected, so not everyone has the resources to help in these ways. If your own wallet is feeling the pinch, there are ways to support small businesses that don’t cost a penny.

Write an online review. This is a good time to finally get around to reviewing your favourite local business. These five-star reviews really do help companies rank well in search engines and on other listing services. This is an easy, free way to show your favourite small businesses that you support them.

Like and share. Help your favourite business reach a broader audience by liking and sharing their posts on social media. This will help them reach future customers and gain more exposure.

Offer encouragement. Being in business is really hard at the best of times, let alone during a crisis like this one. Keep morale up by reaching out to the businesses in your community and letting them know that you appreciate their hard work.

Small businesses are the fabric of our community. Do what you can to support the ones you care about now, so they’re still there for you when things start returning to normal.

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