The B.C. government has reduced the loss requirement for its long-awaited relief grants for small business and tourism operations devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions.
Small businesses can qualify for grants up to $30,000 by showing 30 per cent loss of income at the time they apply, rather than 50 per cent, Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon announced Dec. 21. Newer businesses in operation for 18 months can now qualify, rather than the original program opened during the October election campaign that restricted assistance to businesses in operation for at least three years.
The new application form is posted at a government website, bcbusinessrecoverygrant.com. Businesses that have already applied do not have to reapply, and their applications will be considered with the new criteria, Kahlon said.
The original criteria required small businesses to show they lost at least 50 per cent of their revenue in each month of the pandemic restrictions, with only 1,400 applications received up to Dec. 10.
During the brief mid-December legislature sitting to approve further borrowing for COVID-19 relief and recovery, B.C. Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone called for changes to the program, which he termed a “red tape disaster.”
Kahlon also announced that the additional grant for tourism-related businesses is increased from a maximum $10,000 to $15,000. The original budget of $300 million for the program has not been increased, however, meaning it will last until the fund runs out.
A government-appointed tourism industry task force released its report Dec. 9, calling for additional emergency aid as tourism business have been shutting down. Businesses that have closed or operate seasonally can also apply, Kahlon said.
Ian Tostenson, president of BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, welcomed the additional access to relief funding for a group that represents nearly 14,000 businesses employing more than 190,000 people. About a quarter of employees are aged between 15 and 25, many of them women, and they are seeing their most difficult December ever, he said.
“Seasonal celebrations and Christmas parties and family dinners have basically come to an end in restaurants,” Tostenson said.