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UCP government plans to expand relaunch grant for more Alberta businesses

Click to play video 'New small Alberta businesses seeking COVID-19 supports' New small Alberta businesses seeking COVID-19 supports
Help may soon be on the way for small businesses struggling to survive. Various levels of government have set up financial programs to help, but not everyone qualifies — including new businesses who don't have pre-pandemic revenue numbers. But as Tom Vernon reports, the Alberta government says that's changing in 2021 – Dec 22, 2020

Small- and medium-sized businesses in Alberta currently falling through the cracks of financial support from the province will soon qualify for the expanded relaunch grant.

When Premier Jason Kenney announced tighter restrictions on businesses on Dec. 8, the United Conservatives announced an extension to the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant, allowing businesses to access up to $20,000 if they experienced a 30 per cent revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government estimated this would make an additional 15,000 businesses eligible when compared to previous qualifications, but it didn’t help everyone.

READ MORE: Alberta businesses react to new, tighter COVID-19 restrictions

“Every time any government official goes on TV and says, ‘we have new supports,’ I would spend hours trying to figure out if they would apply for me and inevitably they never do,” said Scott Claypool, owner of The Dapper Beaver Coffee Company in Edmonton.

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After more than a year of planning, Claypool opened his business in August, several months into the pandemic.

He has no pre-pandemic revenue, which is required for the government to determine eligibility. His revenues have dropped dramatically in each of the past two months and he believes the government should recognize that challenge.

“With every new restriction that came into place, we just started seeing people slowly start to stay home more, as they should.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Alberta’s already struggling businesses face more restrictions' Coronavirus: Alberta’s already struggling businesses face more restrictions
Coronavirus: Alberta’s already struggling businesses face more restrictions – Nov 24, 2020

It’s a similar story for the Amandine Cafe in Edmonton, which also opened during the pandemic.

Business started off strong in the summer, but as cases went up, revenues went down and the cafe was forced to layoff all of its staff. Now, it’s just the two co-owners working 12-hour days in an effort to keep the business alive.

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“We pay taxes like other businesses and we employ Albertans like other businesses, but we do not get the subsidies other businesses get,” said co-owner Ghizlane Malki.

In a statement, the press secretary for Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer said help is on the way.

“We have heard from Alberta’s entrepreneurs and will be expanding our supports to ensure that new small businesses are included in the New Year,” wrote Justin Bratinga.

Read more: COVID-19: Alberta restaurant owners say more financial help is needed to help them survive

“We will also continue to speak to our federal counterparts about adjusting their support programs to ensure all businesses are covered.”

Federal wage and rent subsidies have similar requirements to the provincial support.

Read more: Alberta government launches grant to help small businesses with relaunch, PPE costs

NDP MLA Rod Loyola, who has been speaking with small- and medium-sized business owners, believes the UCP should act quickly to ensure businesses survive through the Christmas season.

“There’s nothing stopping the UCP government from, right now, providing the $20,000 relaunch grant to all the new small and medium sized enterprises here in Alberta.”

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