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Province beefs up aid for B.C. businesses hit by COVID closures

Affected businesses can access up to $20,000 in grants. The level of funding is based on staffing levels at the time of closure.
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Ravi Kahlon, B.C. minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation: "It's fair to say that the Omicron variant has created new challenges for all of us, but our government's commitment to support people and businesses through this latest COVID-19 wave is unwavering." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Businesses such as bars, theatres and other venues affected by the extension of pandemic restrictions can now apply for extended financial relief from the province.

On Wednesday, the province announced it was extending the COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant and doubling supports for eligible businesses — those ordered to remain temporarily closed until Feb. 16.

“It’s fair to say that the Omicron variant has created new challenges for all of us, but our government’s commitment to support people and businesses through this latest COVID-19 wave is unwavering,” said Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation.

“While we are encouraged to see that many fitness activities will now be able to take place in a safe, controlled environment, we know there are still sectors directly impacted by these public health measures.”

Despite surging COVID-19 cases, gyms and exercise facilities were told on Tuesday they would be allowed to reopen with capacity and spacing limits this week.

However, the restrictions that closed bars, limited theatres and sports venues to 50 per cent capacity, limited movement and table capacity in restaurants, and cancelled sports tournaments remained in place.

Affected businesses can access up to $20,000 in grants. The level of funding is based on staffing levels at the time of closure.

The ministry said when the grant was first introduced, nearly 700 businesses applied, almost 100 of which were based on Vancouver Island.

Businesses that already applied to previous grant support programs during the pandemic — the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant and Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grants — should expect to receive their funds over the next few weeks.

Fitness facilities that were ordered closed on Dec. 22 but are now able to reopen will still receive the original four-week temporary-closure grant of up to $10,000 based on staffing levels at the time of closure.

Businesses that have applied for a Closure Relief Grant do not need to reapply.

The $4-million extension of the original $10-million provincial grant program is meant to complement federal programs, including the Local Lockdown Program and the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit.

The Local Lockdown Program provides up to 75 per cent of wage and commercial rent support for businesses and other organizations that have been affected by regional provincial health officer orders.

The Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit provides $300 a week in income support to eligible workers directly affected by a COVID-19 related public health order who have lost 50 per cent or more of their income.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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