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“A much-needed shot in the arm:” Grants will help small businesses hit by lockdown

Province offers up to $20k for small businesses significantly affected by lockdown measures
Charla Robinson
New provincial grants of up to $20,000 will provide much-needed cash flow for local businesses, said Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce president Charla Robinson. (File photo)

THUNDER BAY – New provincial grants of up to $20,000 for small businesses hit by Ontario’s lockdown measures will inject badly-needed cash flow as some local operations face existential crises, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce says.

President Charla Robinson welcomed the announcement of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant earlier this week, while cautioning the $10,000 to $20,00 on offer would amount to only a stop-gap measure for many of her members.

“Depending on the scale of losses in your business, [it] could be a drop in the bucket,” she said. “It’s not going to compensate for all the losses – there’s no way that’s happening. But the hope is it provides that cash flow to continue to pay the rent, pay the hydro bill.”

The grant is intended to support businesses impacted by lockdown measures imposed on Dec. 26 across the province, and extended earlier this month, that will restrict many to curbside or delivery services.

According to a provincial release, eligible businesses include those that:

  • Were required to close or significantly restrict services due to the province-wide shutdown imposed effective Dec. 26.
  • Have fewer than 100 employees at the enterprise level.
  • Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020, compared to April 2019. New businesses established since April 2019 will also be eligible if they meet the other eligibility criteria.

Business owners can access more information and apply at a provincial website.

The province has indicated it will work to process applications as quickly as possible, Robinson said, expecting businesses could see money in their accounts within 10 to 14 days.

Minister of Economic Development Vic Fedeli said the new grant was an acknowledgement of just how hard public health measures had hit many small businesses.

However, he said the support received by businesses from provincial and federal governments through the pandemic had been substantial, citing provincial measures like an energy assistance program, property tax rebates, and a PPE grant for small operators.

“Think of it cumulatively: You’ve got a $1,000 PPE [fund], you’ve got your rent 95 per cent paid for, your employees 75 per cent paid for, your heat is paid for, your electricity is paid for, your taxes are paid for – and you get $10,000 to $20,000 on top of that,” he said. “As a small businessperson, I’d say there’s a lot there for you to like.”

Uptake on the new grant had already been brisk over the first handful of days, he reported.

Presenting to city council earlier this week, Robinson had pointed to grim numbers from a soon-to-be-released survey of local business owners.

Nearly half said COVID-19 was having a significant impact on their operations, more than a third had lost over $100,000 in revenue by November, while 16 per cent anticipated going out of business entirely, Robinson said.

Those results came before harsher restrictions implemented after responses were submitted, such as the district's move to Orange-Restrict and the more recent lockdown measures.