Lockdown has been rough on many small businesses, and Joanne Stringer, who owns a small charity shop in St Paul’s Bay, has felt the pinch particularly acutely.
As she prepares to reopen her shop tomorrow, Stringer told Lovin Malta that she hasn’t received a drop of COVID-19 financial aid since May 2020 and has been desperately knocking on the authorities’ doors for help since then, but to no avail.
She said that she received around €1000 in aid for March and April 2020 and around €330 for May 2020, but then stopped receiving aid altogether, something she potentially attributes to her having ticked the wrong box in a Malta Enterprise form.
Meanwhile, she said she’s been desperately trying to speak to someone in the know at Malta Enterprise about what kind of aid she’s eligible for and whether she can benefit from the rent refund scheme.
“When I called 144 [the helpline for businesses], they gave me a number, then that person gave me a second number, and that person sent me back to 144.”
“I’ve been calling 144 again and again to the point that they now recognise my voice but it’s beyond their power. I just want to speak to someone who can help me out. If I ring up every week, then who knows how many internal emails must have been sent about my case, and yet I haven’t received any missed calls or emails or anything.”
“This has been going on since the first lockdown and it’s become a joke now… just not a very funny one.”
Without any help at all during the second lockdown, Stringer was forced to borrow money from people she knows just to be able to pay her rent costs and buy food for herself.
And although her shop is set to reopen tomorrow, she warned that business after the first lockdown wasn’t the same as it was before because more people felt scared to go out or had lost money.
Unsurprisingly, the situation has stressed her to the point she’s had sleepless nights worrying about her own immediate future.
“Should I cut my losses? But then, what will I do afterward? I don’t want to close down my shop because I’m offering a service people need seeing as there are more people struggling and can’t afford to buy clothes at their full price.”
Have you passed through a similar experience? Let us know in the comments or by reaching out at [email protected]