Businesses can now apply for the COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant, a new program the Province has fast-tracked to support B.C. businesses ordered to temporarily close their doors due to recent public-health measures.
“This is not the way any of us wanted to start the new year with more strain on our businesses, families and communities,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation and MLA for North Delta. “Our government will be there to help hard-hit businesses that have had to shut down and get them some necessary support to help pay their bills. We can get through this together as quickly as possible by going back to the basics - bringing back our COVID-19 safety plans for all businesses, recommitting to our daily health checks and continuing to follow all public-health measures.”
Businesses that were ordered to fully close on Dec. 22, 2021, including bars, nightclubs and lounges that do not serve full meals, gyms, fitness and adult dance centres and event venues that can no longer hold events, can apply for relief grants of between $1,000 and $10,000. Funds from the program, which is expected to support more than 3,000 businesses, can help with expenses such as rent, employee wages, insurance, maintenance and utilities.
But the Liberal opposition is not convinced that this funding or the timing of it will do much to alleviate the challenges these businesses are facing.
Delta South MLA Ian Paton, who is also the opposition critic for agriculture, says there is a pattern building of the NDP government not reacting quickly when called upon.
“Being involved in agriculture, I did two separate helicopter trips following the flooding in Abbotsford in November and December. All of those poor people are still waiting for money and support for agri-recovery,” said Paton. “This whole thing continues to drag beyond comprehension. The fires from the summer, the heat wave, the flooding and the pandemic – and there is always catches to all of this, which applies to what is happening here with this relief grant.”
Paton said when the shutdowns were announced before and early on in the pandemic, money needed to be in place and ready to send out quickly.
“That didn’t happen then and now with these more recent shutdowns, here it is Jan. 12th and they [government] are saying you can now apply, but it’s anywhere between $1,000 to $10,000 and only if you have a maximum of 100 employees. There are no fitness centres or dance studios that I know of that have that many employees. This funding won’t do much for any of them.”
Paton said he was speaking to a local fitness owner on Wednesday morning who was very frustrated with the response from government.
“His business is set to go under. He told me his rent is $20,000 a month,” said Paton. “Certainly some money is coming his way, but it’s not enough. This is just too little too late. You need to have surplus funds tucked away to be able to respond to these emergencies and challenges when they come up and it just doesn’t seem to be the case here.”