Harold's Restaurant, a popular family dining institution off the Trans Canada highway near Valleyview, is owed nearly $40,000 dollars from the provincial government.

When thousands of people were evacuated to Kamloops at the height of the summer's wildfire crisis, Harold's Restaurant provided meals at no charge.

The province promised to pick up the tab — but Harold's owners have yet to see any money.

Kamloops MLA Todd Stone brought up the hefty tab in the legislature on Monday, saying small businesses are "suffering because of the government's disorganization."

"Now, this business is struggling because this government is not paying who they owe," he said, adding that Harold's Restaurant is now removing itself from the province's emergency vendors list.

Forest Minister Doug Donaldson responded by saying the priority remains public safety and the protection of infrastructure.

"The fire season is not over yet and it was an unprecedented fire season as the member well knows," he said. 

"Our ministry has been dealing with the backlogs that have arisen because of the focus on public safety, and they're taking that backlog up as it presents itself."

Stone replied that "ensuring public safety and fighting the fires should have nothing to do with the government's obligation to pay its bills."

In August, the provincial government announced a new emergency grant for small businesses, First Nations and non-profits impacted by the B.C. wildfires.

The $1,500 emergency grant — which is administered by the Canadian Red Cross — is for eligible parties located in areas under evacuation order or alerts due to wildfire but is separate from compensation for small businesses registered as emergency vendors.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops