The Manitoba government has pledged $5 million to support dine-in restaurants impacted by ongoing COVID-19 public health restrictions across the province.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday the province will provide the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce with the money, and the chamber will then develop a program aimed to help restaurants pay for delivery costs during the current lockdown.
“This program will rebate restaurants that are considered to be primarily dine-in, and who have shifted to a delivery model,” Pallister said, estimating the aid program would work out to a few thousand dollars for each restaurant.
The province says the money comes based on a recommendation from business leadership and stakeholders.
Dubbed the “$5-million Dine-in Restaurant Relief Program”, Pallister said the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce will work in partnership with the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association to provide a rebate to dine-in restaurants that have shifted to a delivery model under current public health orders.
Many Manitoba businesses have been hit hard under strict restrictions that have been in place since mid-November.
The rules have forced all businesses deemed non-essential to close and ordered restaurants to move to takeout and delivery only.
The orders, which also limit outdoor gatherings and restrict households from gathering with few exceptions, have since been extended until at least early January.
Pallister said the rebate will help offset additional costs related to delivery whether a restaurant provides its own delivery or uses a third-party delivery company.
Restaurants can pay fees of up to 30 per cent for third-party delivery services. The Ontario government introduced a bill last month to cap such fees at 15 per cent in regions where sit-down dining is prohibited.
The relief was welcomed by the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, but the lobby group’s executive director told Global News more help is needed.
“This isn’t the silver bullet that’s going to save restaurants, the reality is the only thing that will save restaurants is getting back to normal,” Shaun Jefferey said.
“I think the biggest win is the collaboration. The provincial government listening to the business community.”
Jefferey says before the pandemic 15 to 20 per cent of Manitoba restaurants didn’t offer delivery or takeout, but 75 per cent of those businesses now do.
Pallister left the door open to more aid if restrictions are extended beyond the current Jan. 8 expiry date.
The province says more information on the new program, including how restaurants can apply, will be made available in the coming weeks.
Moratorium on pension plan payments
Earlier in the day Tuesday Manitoba Finance Minister Scott Fielding announced the government would waive some payments businesses and charities are normally required to put into pensions plans in an effort to provide some relief during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“Many businesses are facing challenges due to the current economic environment and lost revenue due to COVID-19,” Fielding said in a release.
“A moratorium on certain pension payments is a temporary change we can make to support businesses and their employees that will allow businesses to reinvest these funds to keep their employees at work.”
Fielding said his announced changes will allow pension plans to chose to opt out on payments to plans that employees are required to make under defined benefit pension plans for the remainder of 2020 and all of 2021.
Last month the province announced a support program for businesses affected by the lockdown.
The Manitoba Bridge Grant provides $5,000 upfront to businesses, not-for-profits and charities forced closed by COVID-19 restrictions. The program was later expanded to include home-based businesses like event planners, photographers, artists and tradespeople.
Manitoba’s daily count of new COVID-19 cases has started to drop in recent days, but intensive care units are still running above their normal capacity.
–With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Amber McGuckin
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