Beijing authorities plan rent waivers to support small business
By Dai Kaiyi

Beijing's government is rolling out supportive measures to help individually-owned businesses and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises as the service industry in China's capital city has been hard hit by the latest COVID-19 outbreak — with restrictive measures limiting foot traffic.

Restaurant owner Zhao Hongmei opens up her canteen early every morning and waits for customers to come and buy food, but few show up these days. She's been running the place for over 10 years, but is now seeing her business hitting rock bottom.

"We've been affected a lot by COVID. Now we've switch to delivery service or curbside pickup only, because dine-in service is not allowed. There are very few orders every day," said Zhao.

She and her family lived a comfortable life here before the arrival of COVID-19.​ Their daily earnings, sometimes as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,487) was more than enough to cover expenses. Now, it's nerve-wracking every time she thinks about how to pay the yearly rent of 400,000 yuan.

For grocery store owner Peng Tao, the situation looks quite the same. His shop used to make 5,000 yuan a day, now, it's 10 times less.

"I did see from the news that there are national-level supportive policies towards micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, like cutting housing rent. It's yet to trickle down to us, but we are very much looking forward to it," said Peng.

The stories of both Zhao and Peng serve as a microcosm that shows businesses from mom-and-pop grocery stores to family-owned restaurants have been hit hard by COVID, which is why the government announced measures on multiple fronts to alleviate the situation. Some offer businesses value-added tax refunds or tax reductions. Others allow businesses to defer social insurance payments. And for individually-owned businesses renting state-owned properties and paying taxes in Beijing, they will be exempted from rent payments for up to six months. 

Zhao believe the policies will help them survive, and steadily improve quality of life.

"The most important thing for us right now is our basic needs being met," she said.

"I've heard that there are housing rent waivers of up to six months. This, I think, is a spiritual pillar for us," said Wang Bingchao, another restaurant owner, whose business also suffered a heavy blow.

While the measures will soon be in place, it will still take some time for these businesses to recover to pre-COVID levels. For now, the biggest wish of most is to simply keep their businesses afloat.

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