Manitoba’s premier officially launched a support program for business during COVID-19 on Monday afternoon.
Brian Pallister announced new supports last week for small and medium-sized businesses, non-profit groups and cultural organizations, such as museums, affected by the restrictions.
Called the Manitoba Bridge Grant, it will provide $5,000 to small businesses before Christmas, and perhaps another $5,000 in the new year.
Businesses can now apply for the program online.
“We recognize the significant sacrifices our local business community has made in the face of this pandemic in order to protect all Manitobans,” said Pallister Monday.
“We have been working and will continue to work side-by-side with our business community to help them do what they do best – employ Manitobans, and offer services Manitobans rely and depend on. Many of them can’t do that right now, which is why we offering a $5,000 grant to help bridge them through this unprecedented time.”
Pallister described local businesses as the “backbone of our economy”, and said while he knows $5,000 isn’t going to change the lives of business owners, but hopes it’s helpful.
“There are times when a little bit of cash would come in handy, and I hope it comes in handy now,” he said.
Last week, health officials moved the entire province of Manitoba into level red, imposing renewed restrictions aimed at curbing the surging coronavirus numbers.
Under the restrictions that went into effect Thursday, non-essential stores and restaurants are limited to curbside pickup and delivery.
Churches can’t hold in-person services. Bars, museums and theatres are closed and recreational activities are suspended, although schools remain open.
The latest forced closure, and previously restrictions, has left many businesses struggling to survive, according to the Retail Council of Canada.
“This is devastating for the retail sector,” John Graham, director of government relations with the RCC Prairie Region, said this weekend.
“This is the key time of the year when high sales make up for softer sales from the balance of the year.”
The Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association has said a recent member survey found 80 per cent of local operators are struggling with rising debt loads — in some cases, more than $40,000 of debt since the pandemic began.
Manitoba reported 392 new COVID-19 cases Monday as well as 10 additional deaths.
The province has so far counted 11,339 COVID-19 cases and recorded 172 deaths from the virus.
Pallister said further information about enforcement will be coming Tuesday, in terms of businesses and individuals finding loopholes in or evade restrictions.
“I’m very concerned about that. I think it’s dangerous practice and unfair,” he said.
“It’s important to understand that many Manitobans have been helpful in reporting these situations… but there are other steps that I think need to be taken.
“I think that deterrents matter. If there were no traffic rules and we knew there were no police out there enforcing them, would they be safer? Of course not.”
The premier also addressed a recent rally in Steinbach that saw hundreds of people gather to protest mandated masks. He said more will come of that incident in terms of enforcement. He called upcoming fines “the consequences of stupidity”.
“On the surface of it, when you see that many people out doing something wrong, you want to see the tickets issued there and then,” he said.
“It was a pretty dangerous situation and unfortunately there were threats and some things that people said if they thought about it and prayed on it, they would be very regretful.
“There’s more to come than just that ticket.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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