B.C. government has handed out just $10 million of $300-million business grant program

Click to play video: 'Problems with B.C. Business Grant program' Problems with B.C. Business Grant program
Despite an easing of eligibility rules in December, only $6-million of the $300-million earmarked for the B.C. Business Grant program has now been distributed. Richard Zussman reports – Jan 20, 2021

Small and medium-sized businesses have received just $10 million of the $300 million dollars province by the B.C. government.

Jobs and Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon said $65 million has been earmarked but most of that has not made it into the hands of businesses yet. The grant program has been a struggle for the province with low applications originally and issues with the eligibility criteria.

“We are going to look at the program and make sure it is working but we wanted to support viable businesses,” Kahlon said.

“We have one of the most comprehensive programs in Canada and that is why we are seeing the job numbers come back.”

Read more: B.C. increases funding for tourism industry grants

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The small and medium-sized business recovery grant program was originally rolled out in September. The B.C. election delayed the execution of the program and fewer than 1,000 applications came into the province until the end of November.

In December the province overhauled the program and since then thousands of additional applications have come in.

The program offers non-repayable grants of up to $30,000 for businesses. The grant amount goes up to $45,000 for tourism-related businesses.

The original program required businesses to have lost 50 per cent of their revenue and had been open for at least three years.

Those rules were adjusted in December, lessening revenue loss to 30 per cent and reducing operating time to 18 months.

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“We continue to have conversations with every industry that has been impacted by COVID. Our play has been flexible throughout,” Kahlon said.

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There is also a cap on employees. Businesses with 150 or more employees are not eligible.

Harbour Air told Global News the pandemic has devasted company revenues at a pace that staff reductions and restructuring cannot compete with. The company cited fixed costs, health and safety obligations and other non-negotiable expenses requiring a team of over 149 employees and thereby excluding it from the B.C. Business Recovery Grant program.

Read more: B.C. bucks national trend by adding 3,800 jobs in December

While we are optimistic about the future, 2021 will be another challenging year and the viability of the industry requires support,” Harbour Air president Randy Wright said.

“We are asking that a more holistic approach to the aid benefits be considered so businesses that are the biggest employers and thus the biggest contributors to the economy of British Columbia can get back up on their feet.”

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