Small businesses included in lockdown measures now eligible for up to $20k in emergency funding

Small businesses that have been required to close or restrict their services can now apply to the province for one-time funding worth between $10,000 and $20,000.

Eligible business owners can use the money however they please, province says

Small business can qualify for the funding if they experienced a decline of 20 per cent or more in revenue in April 2020 compared to 2019. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Small businesses that have been required to close or restrict their services can now apply for one-time funding worth between $10,000 and $20,000.

Ontario opened applications for its new Small Business Support Grant on Friday as a measure to help businesses affected by province-wide shutdown that started on Dec. 26.

The provincial government has since heightened its COVID-19 measures by issuing a stay-at-home order that went into effect Thursday.

To qualify for the emergency funding, a business must:

  • Have been required to close or restrict services starting Dec. 26.
  • Have fewer than 100 employees.
  • Have experienced a 20 per cent or greater decrease in revenue in April 2020 compared to April 2019 (businesses started after April 2019 can choose a different month for the comparison).

You can apply for the program here.

Eligible businesses will receive a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $20,000, though it is not clear how the province will determine exact dollar figures.

The owners of eligible businesses can "use this funding in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business needs," said the province in a news release, listing employee wages or rent as possible uses.

Program could provide relief, but not for all

Billy Dertilis, chair of Danforth Mosaic BIA and the owner of Red Rocket Coffee, said the program provides business owners with "a sense of relief."

Dertilis expects to qualify for the funding since he shut down his business entirely in April 2020. 

His coffee shop is now permitted to stay open under the latest restrictions, but he noted that sales remain down, and noted that other businesses in his area have seen sharper drops in revenue.

"I was relieved but skeptical," said Caroline Starr, owner of The Healing Collective, a mental health therapy operation. "Because it's been quite a long time through the pandemic without any sort of relief from the province."

Toronto business owner Caroline Starr says she was disappointed to learn the program may not capture all businesses that have been affected by the pandemic. (CBC)

Starr said the program may not account for the nuances of what she calls the "slow bleed" that has plagued businesses during the pandemic. She said pegging eligibility to revenue figures from April 2020 may not account for businesses that have had to repeatedly start and stop while adjusting to evolving restrictions.

In a tweet, Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation for Independent Business, expressed similar concerns, including "gaps" in the program that may leave out businesses that were locked down earlier in the pandemic.

However, Kelly praised the overall program and called on the federal government to expand on the concept.

Businesses are not eligible for the funding if they were ordered closed before the introduction of modified Stage 2 measures on Oct. 10.

Essential businesses — such as grocery stores, corner stores and pharmacies — that are permitted to stay open with capacity restrictions are also not eligible.