Calgary

Relaunch grant welcomed by 'decimated' businesses and non-profits but funding not enough, CFIB says

Small to mid-sized businesses, cooperatives and non-profits impacted by COVID-19 were able to apply for grant relief on Monday morning — but some are saying that while the support is certainly welcome, it won't be enough on its own.

20 per cent of small businesses in Alberta don't expect to survive pandemic, according to CFIB

"It is absolutely not all of the relief that small businesses need right now, but it will help," Annie Dormuth, the Alberta Provincial Affairs Director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told CBC News about the relaunch grant. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

Small to mid-sized businesses, cooperatives and non-profits impacted by COVID-19 were able to apply for grant relief on Monday morning — but some are saying that while the support is welcome, it won't be enough on its own.

The small and medium enterprise relaunch grant was announced by the Alberta government earlier this month, and has a budget of $200 million.

Eligible organizations must have 500 employees at most, and prove a revenue loss of 50 per cent in April or May of 2020. 

The grant offers financial assistance for 15 per cent of pre-COVID-19 revenue and is capped at a maximum of $5,000.

"What we'll be using those funds for is to help offset some of our fixed costs, including power and electricity to landscaping to wages," Brian Desjardins, the executive director of the Hangar Flight Museum, told CBC News.

"Any amount is welcome. It won't go a long way, but we're certainly thankful for it."

'We were decimated'

The Hangar Flight Museum, a non-profit, closed in March, and has reopened two days a week since early June.

Desjardins said the museum had to lay off all of its part-time staff — and some full-time staff — in order to make ends meet.

Prepping the museum for tours during COVID-19 has also been a tremendous expense; Desjardins said that if the museum is able to receive the maximum amount of funding, it will just about cover the necessary signage for reopening in the pandemic.

Brian Desjardins is the executive director at the Hangar Flight Museum. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"Having lost revenue from admissions and facility rentals and school bookings, we were decimated. So, a funding program like this is certainly welcome," Desjardins said.

"We respect and realize that when the pandemic first started, we're not an essential, front-line organization helping with the pandemic. However, for a museum like ours — and there's many of them locally here in Calgary — we were hit hard ... It's been difficult for us to try and find funds out there."

It is absolutely not all of the relief that small businesses need right now, but it will help.- Annie Dormuth with CFIB

Annie Dormuth, the Alberta Provincial Affairs Director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), told CBC News the grant comes at a welcome time for small businesses when visits are down across the board.

"It is absolutely not all of the relief that small businesses need right now, but it will help," Annie Dormuth, the Alberta Provincial Affairs Director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told CBC News.

"Only 20 per cent of our small businesses here in Alberta are saying that they're making normal or better revenues for this time of year, which is really quite concerning."

Even more concerning is that according to Dormuth, 20 per cent of small businesses in Alberta are not confident they will survive the pandemic.

"This ... will help those small businesses who are really helping to pay for fixed costs, such as rent, and even struggling to pay for additional new costs, like PPE," Dormuth said.

"[But] small businesses really do need flexibility right now."

That flexibility, she said, includes CFIB recommendations that the federal government consider deferring GST payments for small businesses until the end of the year, make them repayable without penalty, and broaden rent relief under the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program.

As for what the average Albertan can do, Dormuth stressed the importance of shopping locally when possible.

"That's something simple that everyone can do to help small businesses at this time."

Applications for the small and medium enterprise relaunch grant are open until Aug. 31.

With files from Dave Gilson

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