REGINA -- Some small essential businesses meet all of the criteria to qualify for the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment Program; except that they were not ordered to close or curtail.

Devon Young is the owner of Effective Electric in Regina and says his business has faced a massive slowdown in work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Those non-essentials that are closed, they’re not using the trades right now,” Young said. “So we’ve really seen a decline in revenue.”

He’s had to lay off his six employees and has slowed down to only emergency service calls during COVID-19.

Young told CTV News towards the end of March, he applied to the province for help through the SSBEPP but was denied.

“I got an email from the government saying I didn’t qualify because I was an essential business, I could be open right now, I wasn’t forced to close or curtail,” Young said, adding just because he is open doesn’t mean his business is getting jobs anywhere near the normal rate for this time of year.

Young said he was directed to federal help through programs offering loans but he hopes to avoid taking on any more debt.

Erin Vaughan, the owner/operator of Kinetic Auto Service, has faced similar issues and also wants to avoid going into debt if possible.

“A lot of what we’re being offered is loans,” said Vaughan. “It’s hard for us because we have small margins to begin with, small businesses.”

On Wednesday Premier Scott Moe said the province is working on a number of infrastructure projects aimed at kickstarting many trade sectors for construction season.

“[We have] some additional announcements in the days ahead that we hope will get some of these folks, our tradespeople in community after community back to work,” Moe said.

Young says getting extra help through a modified SSBEPP or otherwise would allow him to get his staff back on the job more quickly, but he’s hopeful business will start picking up as the province continues to reopen.

“They’re not all going to jump to open and have the trades in there doing work or people in there doing work,” Young said. “But it would help us substantially to have that extra money coming in here and then we wouldn’t have to go into debt.”

Phase two of the reopening starts on May 19.