Province promises $22M in grants to Manitoba businesses impacted by capacity limits

The province will provide $22 million in various sizes of grants to businesses required to reduce their capacity limits under Manitoba’s latest COVID-19 restrictions. 

The grants will be calculated based on the number of employees, Minister of Economic Development and Jobs Jon Reyes said at a news conference Wednesday morning. 

The grants will be up to $3,000 for businesses with one to nine employees, up to $6,000 for businesses with 10 to 19 employees, up to $9,000 for business with 20 to 49 employees and up to $12,000 for businesses with 50 employees or more, Reyes said.

“As a previous small-business owner, I understand the challenges businesses face, and that is why our government is eager and committed to helping Manitoba businesses remain open, keep Manitobans employed and for all of us to spend the holidays with friends and family in a safe way,” Reyes said. 

The program is available to businesses such as restaurants, hotels and bars that provide dine-in food services, fitness and recreation facilities, movie theatres, performance venues and museums.

Businesses will be eligible for these grants regardless of whether they have accessed financial support from the province before, Finance Minister Scott Fielding said. 

They can apply online starting next week, once the province has its website updated, Fielding said.

The money will be deposited directly into applicants’ bank accounts, similar to the way the province’s bridge grant program worked, Fielding said.

Applicants won’t have to prove how much the latest restrictions are impacting them, as long as they are applying for a business forced to reduce capacity. 

They can apply until the end of January, he said, but that could be extended if the public orders are. 

The province allocated about $1.1 billion in its budget this year for COVID-19 relief programs, he said.

“There is substantial money available to support businesses as we go forward,” he said.

Grants not enough: small business owner

However, small business owner Willows Christopher says he doesn’t think $3,000 will be sufficient. 

Christopher is the co-founder/owner of Shrugging Doctor Beverage Company, which operates a winery and a small lounge in the St. James neighbourhood of Winnipeg. He says he usually has about three to six employees.

He says $3,000 would almost cover his rent for the month, but he has other monthly expenses on top of that, such as insurance and utility bills. He expects most small businesses will be in the same position. 

“None of us are looking for any handouts. We’re just in a position where we’re getting shut down, we’re going into two years of this, and we just want to be able to stay afloat,” he told CBC.

“For me, at least, that one-time $3,000 payment isn’t even going to pay the bills and what I lose in a lockdown.”

New restrictions came into effect in Manitoba on Tuesday as the province tries to stem the impact of the Omicron variant on the health-care system. 

In addition to placing limits on private gatherings, capacity at gyms, theatres, restaurants, licensed venues and libraries has been cut to 50 per cent.

Restaurant guests also have to stay seated, and a maximum of 10 people per table are allowed at both licensed and unlicensed restaurants. 

Earlier in the week, Manitoba’s Official Opposition and advocates for the business community had called on the province to step up to help.

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