The provincial government will provide more than $50 million in grants to help the 14,000 restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, gyms and fitness centres affected by the March 30 provincial health orders prohibiting indoor activity.
The money comes from the $345-million small and medium-sized business recovery grant program has been set aside for businesses through the circuit breaker business relief grant. The amount a business receives will be based on the number of employees. The grant is open to eligible businesses of any size that have been in operation since Feb. 1, 2021, and earlier.
Businesses that have been closed due to violating health orders, such as Corduroy Restaurant and Gusto in Vancouver — are not eligible for the grant.
“We are not going to be supporting bad behaviour, and certainly there are a handful of them that have been prominent in the news, and this programis not available to them,” Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said.
The new grant will provide affected businesses with up to $10,000 in one-time funding to help with expenses like rent, insurance, employee wages, maintenance and utilities. The grant can also help cover unexpected costs that resulted from the restrictions, such as the purchase of perishable goods.
Applications for the grant are expected to open the week of April 12.
"We have reason to be hopeful and things will soon get better for all of us in British Columbia,” Kahlon said. “In the meantime, our local businesses need us and we need them. I encourage communities to BuyBC and shop local wherever you can."
In response to a question as to why the new grant program is coming from the existing small and medium-sized business recovery grant program for a wide group of small businesses, and is not new money, Kahlon said the government’s response is changing as the pandemic changes.
“This money is going to go to small businesses that need it the most right now,” he said.
For more information on the circuit breaker business relief grant, including the application process and eligibility, click here.
For more information on the small and medium-sized business recovery grant program, including the application process and eligibility, click here.
Meanwhile, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, jobs minister critic for the BC Liberals, said the NDP has offered no new money to help businesses and is simply taking money from an existing grant program.
“The NDP is basically acknowledging their overall program for small business — the business recovery grant program specifically — has been a disaster,” Stone said. “All they have done today is give a new name to a pool of money that already exists, to cover up for the NDP’s incompetence. They had no plan to help the sector before and they still don’t today. Far too many questions remain for restaurant owners and employees.”
Stone asked why applications are not open immediately and why the provincial government did not have the new grant money in place on the same day — March 30 — the newest health orders were announced.
He said it is not clear how long it will take for a business to be approved for funds, nor is it clear whether businesses already been approved for recovery grant funding, and those that have received recovery grant funding to date, can also receive the additional support.