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B.C. businesses closed by COVID orders can now apply for relief grants

Program opens just six days before public health order is set to expire

Applications are now open for the B.C. COVID-19 Relief Grant for businesses ordered to close by the public health office.

Eligible businesses include bars, nightclubs, lounges, yoga and pilates studios, gyms and event venues that had to fully close due to the Dec. 22 public health order.

READ MORE: B.C. closes gyms and bars, bans indoor organized events over holidays as Omicron surges

Business owners can receive a one-time grant ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the number of employees or contracted staff. Grant funding can be put towards expenses such as rent, insurance, maintenance and employee wages. Businesses must provide direct deposit information and a single business validation document such as a business license, liquor license or statement of registration, notice of assessment or lease agreement in their grant application.

The program is meant to complement programs from the federal government, including the Local Lockdown Program and the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit. Under the federal programs, businesses can apply for up to 75 per cent of wage and rent support. Workers can receive up to $300 per week in income support if they have been impacted by COVID-related closures that caused them to lose 50 per cent or more of their income.

Any businesses that have remained open in spite of provincial health orders will not be eligible to apply for grant funds.

READ MORE: Golden’s Gym owner speaks out on ‘hypocrisy’ of B.C. restrictions

Some business owners, like Jamie Paquette feel the grant program will do little to offset their losses. Her small gym in Golden would only be eligible for a $1,000 grant, an amount she says would barely cover her Hydro bill.

“I’m just trying to do what’s right for my community, it feels like I’ve done everything I can, I’ve done everything right, gone above and beyond, and I’m still being punished.”

B.C.’s minister for jobs, economic recovery and innovation Ravi Kahlon faced questions about why the government waited nearly three weeks before launching the grant program. The grant program opened on Jan. 12 and the public health order is set to expire on Jan. 18. Kahlon said the government needed time to prepare the program in coordination with existing federal supports.

He stressed that the provincial grant should not be taken as a signal that the order may be extended.

“I certainly do not want to be sending any signals about any extensions,” he said. “To date, I have not heard of any changes that they’re contemplating or any extensions.”

READ MORE: B.C. COVID-19 case decline continues, 2,239 cases for Tuesday

- With files from Claire Palmer


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