Montreal announces $5M grant to help local, cultural and social economy businesses

WATCH: Montreal officials announce financial aid for specific businesses struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The City of Montreal announced on Thursday a grant totaling $5 million to help local merchants, social economy businesses and cultural enterprises hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes as the Quebec government decided to push back the reopening of schools and businesses by one week, to May 25.

READ MORE: Quebec delays reopening of Montreal schools, daycares and stores as coronavirus cases rise

“While I totally agree with this decision, since public health must come first all the time, it is all the more important to help Montreal merchants,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

Two million of the $5-million grant will go towards the creation of a fund to support merchants.

“This $2 million represents direct assistance,” Plante specified. “It is not a loan.”

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The money, Plante said, can be used by merchants to adapt their businesses, for example, with the installation of Plexiglas dividers, or the funds can go towards improving online platforms.

Crowdfunding to support local merchants

The city will also be supporting local crowdfunding campaigns, the first of which will be launched in the boroughs of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Centre-Sud and Verdun on Friday.

The campaigns are being developed and run by two non-profit organizations, including La Ruche whose mission is to encourage projects that stimulate the vitality of a given area through its crowdfunding platform, and the Société de développment commercial de Montreal, whose goal is to stimulate economic development.

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“The local campaigns will allow people to support their local businesses by purchasing gift cards redeemable at these stores,” explained Luc Rabouin, mayor of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough and the city’s executive committee member responsible for economic and commercial development.

READ MORE: Montreal business community split on decision to delay reopening of non-essential stores

The city will match the value of purchases up to a maximum amount of $500,000. Rabouin said it will provide a boost to businesses experiencing cash-flow problems.

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The Desjardins Group — a Quebec-based cooperative financial institution — will also contribute to the campaigns by donating money to local community organizations working in the targeted neighbourhoods helping the most vulnerable.

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Rabouin estimates the initiative could generate up to $2 million in direct investments for local businesses and community organizations.

Support for social economy businesses, culture

Social economy businesses include many not-for-profit organizations, as well as cooperatives.

Rabouin said that while many of these types of businesses are providing essential services during the pandemic, they face a lot of challenges.

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Coronavirus outbreak: West Island charity work is on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic

“They don’t really have the capacity to take out loans, so we need to help them thrive through the crisis,” he said.

To that effect, the City of Montreal is setting aside $2 million to help those businesses cover various expenses such as salaries, rent, paying suppliers or other COVID-19-related expenses.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Montreal boroughs donate more than $1M to Centraide emergency fund

He also added that social economy businesses have access to free technical support, representing $300,000 in assistance.

Cultural institutions have also been hard-hit by the pandemic due to containment measures which have forced them to close.

Rabouin said $500,000 has been set aside for non-subsidized private venues including alternative venues and independent cinemas.

Rabouin said it was important to support cultural institutions for the key role they play in maintaining the city’s cultural vitality and how they support emerging artists and make neighbourhoods more lively.