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British Columbia extending deadline for recovery grant program following delays

A woman paints a mural on the boarded up windows of a closed Gastown business in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, April 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The B.C. government is extending the deadline for small and medium-sized businesses to apply for the provincial grant program.

The province has struggled to distribute the $345 million earmarked for business recovery in September. So far just $55 million has been sent to businesses.

The changes also include lowering the number of revenues a business is required to have lost in order to be eligible.

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The previous requirement was for a business to have experienced at least a 70 per cent revenue loss at some point in March or April 2020. Now, a business is required to demonstrate only a 30 per cent revenue loss in any one month between March 2020 to the point of application.

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“We have some businesses that have applied and they were not eligible and not we can call them and say they can access the money,” Jobs and Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon said.

The time to apply for the grant program has been extended from March 31, 2021, to Aug. 31, 2021.

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

The province does not have any specific numbers on how many businesses will now be eligible for the program that were not eligible before.

A bulk of the cash, 52 per cent, has gone to tourism-based businesses.

The money is available to businesses that employ up to 149 B.C. residents. Grants of $10,000 to a maximum of $30,000 are available, with up to an additional $5,000 to $15,000 available to tourism-related businesses.

“We continue to listen to B.C. businesses about what they need to navigate through the second wave of this pandemic and position themselves for a strong recovery,” Kahlon said.

“This funding has been set aside for businesses to help them rebuild, keep people employed and support B.C.’s economic recovery. We are committed to making sure hard-hit businesses can access these critical funds.”

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The BC Liberals suggest the changes don’t go far enough.

The opposition is calling for the province to eliminate the requirement for applicants to have been in business for 18 months from the date of application.

Liberal critic Todd Stone is also calling for the government to reduce the red tape associated with the program by speeding up the application and approval process.

“I’m glad the NDP government is making these changes which the BC Liberals have been advocating for since last year,” Stone said.

“Unfortunately, this has taken so long that many small businesses have already closed down, and it might be too late for many others. Countless businesses could be in a better position today had the NDP not stubbornly refused to budge on extending the program deadline.”

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