For struggling businesses across Alberta, more support from the province is on the way, but not until April.
Premier Jason Kenney announced on Wednesday that an extra $10,000 will be made available per organization — on top of previous grants totalling no more than $20,000 — for a new maximum of $30,000.
Eligible businesses must have fewer than 500 employees and have seen revenue plummet by at least 60 per cent during the pandemic.
The timeline announced on Wednesday is raising some eyebrows in the Lethbridge business community, with many small- and medium-sized businesses in the city in dire straits.
“95 per cent of people in the hospitality industry need more support, 87 per cent of those in the art and recreation industry need more support,” said Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce CEO Cyndi Vos. “What’s that number going to look like on April 1?”
Gym owner Justin Tavernini says many of his peers are in desperation mode, with gyms currently only allowed to welcome clients for personal training services.
“I’ve been on a lot of calls over the last couple of months, especially with gym owners across the province, and some of the stories that I’m hearing are absolutely heartbreaking,” Tavernini said. “I have some people being like, ‘Yep, the bank just came and took my treadmills today.'”
Tavernini said he’s taken advantage of all support funding available so far, but it can’t make up for what he would be bringing in if his business was fully open.
“For me personally, every month that we’re closed we’re down $20,000-$25,000 in revenue. So when the provincial government comes out with a $30,000 grant, yeah that helps us for one month. We’ve been closed for six,” he said.
“I would rather be open and making our revenues than taking that, because it doesn’t even touch the revenue loss that we’ve endured.”
Vos said the Chamber of Commerce is hearing from many Lethbridge businesses that are feeling hopeless, with no end to restrictions in sight.
“There’s a lot of organizations that I speak to that they’re not even planning anything until 2022,” Vos said. “That’s how discouraged they are feeling.”
The province said in its announcement that the additional $10,000 can be used to offset costs associated with COVID-19, like purchasing PPE, paying bills or hiring staff.
The budget for the Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit program is $120 million, and the Alberta Government says payments for the grant will be available in April following the conclusion of the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant program.