The Alberta Government has expanded and bolstered its Small and Medium Business Enterprise Relaunch grant to help the small business sector react to the COVID -19.
Early in the pandemic, the Alberta Government launched the program in June and offers financial assistance to Alberta businesses, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations with fewer than 500 employees that faced restrictions or closures due to public health orders. Originally the government injected $200 million into the program. With this recent announcement, they have increased the budget to $500 million.
The original program offered funding up to $5,000 in the initial offering. The recent announcement offered another $15,000 to businesses up to $20,000.
Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Tourism and MLA for West Yellowhead Martin Long tells the Mail the program recognizes the need of small businesses.
“With the increased measures that have been announced, we know that is having more of an impact on small businesses in particular,” said Long. “We figured this is the right time to reach out and provide a bit more support, it actually quadrupled the support of the province.”
“With the vaccine starting to be distributed this week, we are just hoping to get these businesses get to the next part of this journey.”
While the vaccine has been rolled out, Alberta is still seeing new COVID-19 cases every day.
Long says the initial uptake of the program was in the area of $65 million of the $200 million budget. About 17,000 businesses took advantage.
“It was well-received in the fact, unlike a lot of programs that had been announced previously, this grant, you didn’t have to go back a year to compare loss of revenue, you could go back to January and February of this year,” he said.
Additionally, the program is now expanding to include job creators who have experienced a 30 per cent revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This lowers the threshold from the existing requirement of 40 per cent revenue loss. The 30 per cent threshold will be available to impacted businesses retroactive to March.
He said one of the hardest-hit sectors was tourism.
“Tourism was particularly impacted immensely, not strictly from a provincial standpoint, but a global standpoint,” he said.
“I want to express my appreciation when we had an easing of restrictions through the late spring and summer, Albertans actually got out in the province and saw the province for the first time… they did a part in helping out hard-hit tourism operators this summer, and kept spent money at home which was a huge help.”
The closing date for the program is March 31, 2021.
He says there are businesses out there that are choosing to go without the offered support.
“I talked to people a few months ago who have purposely not applied for any government programs, federally or provincially, because they are small business owners and they shared with me that they knew the risk getting into small business and they don’t want government handouts,” he said.
He hopes the province is turning the corner.
“I hope we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine, and the control measures, we are confident Albertans are all going to be on board and do their part in this to bring down those numbers and ease the burden on our health care system,” he said.