Manitoba expands funding for businesses impacted by COVID-19

The province is expanding its bridge grant program for businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, extending the application period to March 31 and tripling the amount for first-time applicants.

New applicants eligible for one-time payment of $15K

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the expansion of the bridge grant program at a news conference on Tuesday. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The province is expanding its bridge grant program for businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, extending the application period to March 31 and tripling the amount for first-time applicants. 

Eligible businesses that received a first and second bridge grant payment, worth up to $5,000 each, will automatically receive a third payment of the same amount as soon as Friday, Premier Brian Pallister announced on Tuesday.

New applicants will be eligible for a one-time payment of a maximum of $15,000.

"We are here to help as best we can in these difficult times for our small business community," Pallister said.

The third round of payments will provide $67 million in immediate support to eligible small and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profits and charities impacted, the province says.

The province originally set aside $200 million for the program, but the additional payments will bring the total to $215 million.

"I think this is really good news," says Colin Fast the director of policy for the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

"For a lot of small businesses especially, this is going to provide them with a little bit of hope and a little bit of a cushion to keep going in the months ahead."

So far, about 14,000 Manitoba businesses have applied for the bridge grant, Pallister says.

The program was first announced on Nov. 10, 2020, offering businesses impacted by the restrictions $5,000 in support up front.

In January, the province expanded eligibility to include hotels, resorts, lodges and outfitters, travel agencies, janitorial service companies and owner/operators of licensed passenger transportation businesses.

More help needed

Fast is hoping for some more targeted support for industries hardest hit by the pandemic.

"We know there are certain sectors in the economy, looking at arts, tourism, hospitality in particular that have pretty severely impacted," he said.

"Some really focused support for those areas to get them through."

Pallister says that may be coming.

"I wouldn't take anything off the table. We have another $50 million we're looking to allocate."

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With files from Bartley Kives