Provincial reliefs grants of up to $10,000 are being offered to businesses ordered to close last month because of public health measures in B.C. to limit the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 Omicron variant.
About 3,000 business operators could apply for the $10-million relief grant program, which provides between $1,000 and $10,000 to individual businesses based on the number of staff at the time of closure, Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon said Wednesday.
Bars, nightclubs and lounges that do not serve full meals, plus gyms, fitness centres and event venues, were among businesses ordered to temporarily close on Dec. 22, with a reopening date set for next Tuesday.
Kahlon said the grant can help businesses with expenses including rent, wages, maintenance, insurance and utilities.
“These businesses are important members of our local communities and provide jobs to thousands of British Columbians,” he said during a news conference. “Please give them support, if you can, while they are closed. They need us just as much as we need them.”
The B.C. grant complements federal government programs that provide up to 75 per cent wage and rent support to businesses and $300 a week to eligible workers affected by public health orders, he said.
Businesses with five to 99 employees or staff on contracts are eligible for a $5,000 non-repayable grant and those with 100 or more employees or contract workers can receive $10,000, Kahlon said.
The grant applications will be fast-tracked, said Kahlon, who did not provide an estimate on how long it will take to process the applications and provide the grants.
But he said businesses that didn’t follow the health orders by staying open are not eligible to apply for the province’s grant.
“We have built in an auditing system to ensure those businesses that have defied orders will not be able to get access to the supports,” Kahlon said.
The province recorded 2,859 more COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and six new deaths, for a total of 2,455 fatalities. Two of the deaths were in the Island Health region.
There are 500 people in hospitals and the number in intensive care wards has increased to 102 people.
In the Island Health region, 451 new confirmed cases were reported, bringing the number of known active cases to 4,245.
Also Wednesday, the University of British Columbia announced further delays in students’ return to campuses.
In a statement, it said it is now planning a Feb. 7 return to in-person classes after originally considering a return date of Jan. 24.
Simon Fraser University in Burnaby says it will go back to in-person classes on Jan. 24 as planned.
The University of Victoria is also planning to resume in-person classes on Jan. 24.