Alberta extending pandemic business supports until end of June

Alberta is extending supports to small businesses and the tourism industry the same day the premier announced a plan that could see the province lift all COVID-19 restrictions by the beginning of July.

Extension comes as province announces possible end to all restrictions in July

Justine Martinson, owner of Lipstick Empire Laser Spa in Edmonton, says she has kept her business afloat using savings since she hasn't been able to qualify for provincial support. (CBC)

Alberta will extend supports to small businesses and the tourism industry for another month, the announcement coming on the same day the premier unveiled a plan that could see the province lift all COVID-19 restrictions by July. 

The government is extending the application deadline for the third intake of the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant until June 30. 

The program pays eligible small businesses impacted by COVID-19 closure orders up to $10,000 for relaunch costs.  The province will also extend a program that allows tourism operators to keep the levies they collect for another three months. The program, which was to end on March 30, has been extended until June 30. 

Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer said he hoped Wednesday's reopening announcement news means this will the last time Alberta will have to extend small business supports due to COVID-19 closures. 

"If your business has been impacted by health orders and you've seen a drop of 30 per cent of your revenue as a result, apply now," he said. 

Some business owners have complained that the criteria for the grants are so narrow they have been shut out of the process. 

Justine Martinson, owner of Lipstick Empire Spa in Edmonton, said she has been using her savings to finance her business through several openings and closings over the past 15 months. 

"You have to fit into this tiny little box to get (a) subsidy, which we don't," she said. "So that's why a lot of businesses are funding their businesses themselves."

NDP critic Deron Bilous said his caucus has talked to other small business owners who applied when the third intake opened in March but are still waiting for money from the province.

"The premier expanded the application period for the grant today but can't even get the money out the door to those who have already applied," Bilous told the legislature on Wednesday. 

Finance Minister Travis Toews defended the government's record on supporting businesses. He said applications in the latest round are being processed within 10 to 14 days. 

"There are a very small percentage of applications that require further follow up in order to ensure that we maintain integrity in our financial system," he said. 

Grants offered under the program can be accessed by small businesses, co-ops and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees that have lost at least 30 per cent of their revenue due to public health orders.

With files from Allison Dempster