Sudbury

Ontario grant program failing small businesses in northeast, NDP says

The Ontario Small Business Support Grant program has failed many entrepreneurs in the northeast during the pandemic, says the provincial NDP. Business owners express different views on how the program has worked for them.

But Downtown Sudbury BIA managing director says, 'I haven't heard too many horror stories'

Chris Cunningham, owner of Jak’s Diner in Sudbury, spoke about his own struggles with the Ontario Small Business Support Grant program. (Warren Schlote/CBC)

The Ontario Small Business Support Grant program has failed many entrepreneurs in the northeast during the pandemic, says the provincial NDP.

At a news conference, MPPs Jamie West (Sudbury) and France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) expressed their concerns about the program, which was established to provide small businesses with financial support during difficult COVID-19 times.

"Throughout the pandemic, MPP France Gélinas and I have received many calls from small business owners struggling and worried about their future," West said Tuesday.

West said many small businesses in his riding were either excluded from the program's eligibility list or left hanging as they struggled to navigate a complex process to receive funding.

I'm still waiting on the money​.​​​​​​- Chris Cunningham, owner of Jak's Diner in Sudbury

Chris Cunningham, owner of Jak's Diner in Sudbury, says he's had his own struggles with the program.

"I applied for that small business support grant last year in December and I was approved in February of 2021," he said at the news conference. "I received an email saying I would receive around $12,000 and it would be deposited into my account within 10 business days. Well, it never came. I'm still waiting on the money." 

Cunningham said he was told he had qualified for a second round of funding as well, but never received it.

"And it's not just restaurants," he said. "Gyms, and hair salons and lots of small businesses are affected by this and are already struggling, complying with more stringent health and safety regulations and forced closures."

A man standing on a downtown street.
Kyle Marcus. managing director of the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area, says his experience with the province's business support grant program has been positive. (Zacharie Routhier/Radio-Canada)

Kyle Marcus. managing director of the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area, said his experience with the program has been different. 

I haven't seen too many businesses go under as a result of any delay of money or anything like that.- Kyle Marcus, Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area

"You know, personally speaking, I haven't heard too many horror stories," he told the CBC. "I haven't seen too many businesses go under as a result of any delay of money or anything like that. In fact, I couldn't name one that went out of business because their subsidies didn't come on time."

Marcus said he applied for a support grant through the program, and although he had to wait longer than expected, the funds did arrive.

He said it was also difficult to find information about the program, but added he was sympathetic to the province.

"I also do understand that they're dealing with a whole country of people struggling, a whole province of people struggling," he said. "And there's probably a lot of chaos, a lot of applicants and just a lot of stress around it all. So, you know, I can be a little forgiving that it took a little while."

CBC contacted Premier Doug Ford's office for comment on the grant program, but a response did not directly address the issues raised by the NDP.

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