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‘Onerous’: Slow uptake on B.C. grant for businesses targeted by crime, vandalism

Click to play video: 'B.C. businesses owners struggling to access vandalism rebates'
B.C. businesses owners struggling to access vandalism rebates
Several B.C. business owners say they're struggling to get approved for rebates from the provincial government that are meant to help cover the cost of vandalism. Kristen Robinson reports. – Feb 6, 2024

There has been little uptake so far on a B.C. government program meant to help small businesses targeted by crime and vandalism, and some say a cumbersome application process is to blame.

Starting in late November, businesses have been able to apply for up to $2,000 for graffiti or vandalism repairs and $1,000 for prevention measures under the Securing Small Business Rebate Program.

But the province says so far, just $71,000 of the $10.5 million fund has been paid out.

Click to play video: 'Government funds for community vandalism recovery'
Government funds for community vandalism recovery

John Neate, CEO and founder of Vancouver coffee chain JJ Bean, said his company had its application turned back for bureaucratic reasons.

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Initially, the problem was a lack of a police report, which Neate said he didn’t get because the company doesn’t bother calling police for vandalism.

“We never do because nothing happens,” he said. “The only time we call the police is if something is stolen.”

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Once they obtained the report, however, they were stymied again because they hadn’t filed an insurance claim, according to Neate.

“Our deductible was greater than what the breakage of the window was, so it didn’t really make sense to file for an insurance claim,” he said.

Vancouver restaurant Superbaba told Global News it ran into the same problem when applying for the grant. The company also declined to file an insurance claim, because the repair deductible was greater than the cost of damage.

“If it’s going to be a small business security rebate, then it needs to be accessible to small business in a way that’s not super onerous,” Neate said.

“It’s been frustrating to deal with.”

Click to play video: 'BIAs ask B.C. government for vandalism recovery funding'
BIAs ask B.C. government for vandalism recovery funding

Since the program’s inception, the provincial government has received 419 applications, including 247 for the preventative rebate and 172 for the repair rebate.

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Just seven repair rebates, worth $7,000, have been paid out so far, along with 66 prevention rebates worth about $64,000.

Ironically, a business the provincial government featured in its initial news release touting the program also did not qualify.

The owner of The Junction Public House told Global News he also didn’t file a police report when his storefront was vandalized because nothing was stolen. Without it, he said, his application was unable to proceed.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver businesses continue to battle vandalism during COVID recovery'
Vancouver businesses continue to battle vandalism during COVID recovery

“I think filing a police report is a small barrier … It’s not a difficult thing to do and it can be done even by phone,” Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Minister Brenda Bailey said.

“But I do look forward to talking to businesses more about this as I learn some of the concerns they’re raising.”

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As for the apparently limited uptake so far, Bailey said applications have been open for fewer than three months, and that the province is still working to get the word out to affected businesses.

A spokesperson for the ministry added that there are currently about 1,000 “draft applications” started through program administrator The BC Chamber of Commerce’s online portal.

It said the province was working with the chamber in an “ongoing review” of the program for any potential adjustments, but that applicants will always need to have some form of documentation.

Businesses can apply for the grant until January 2025.

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