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Alberta expands financial support to small and medium businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Calgary small business owners react to COVID-19 relief grant' Calgary small business owners react to COVID-19 relief grant
WATCH: On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney and Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer announced the Alberta government would be expanding the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant for businesses impacted by COVID-19. Matthew Conrod has reaction from small business owners in Calgary – Apr 13, 2021

Alberta is expanding a program to provide financial support to small and medium-sized businesses affected by the most recent round of COVID-19 public health orders.

Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday that Alberta is expanding its Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant to include another payment of up to $10,000 for eligible businesses.

Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer said the online application portal will open early next week. Funds should flow to eligible businesses about 10 days after that, Schweitzer said.

“We anticipate that funds will be flowing close to the end of this month for small businesses that need this support,” the minister said.

Read more: Half of Canada’s independent restaurants could close without help, industry group warns

The Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant offers financial assistance to Alberta organizations (businesses, cooperatives and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees) that were ordered to close or curtail operations, and that experienced a revenue reduction of at least 30 per cent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This is the third time the $10,000 payment has been made available to eligible Alberta businesses. This payment will also be available to new businesses that began operating between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, as well as hotels, taxis and ride-sharing services.

“Small businesses have borne the brunt of pandemic restrictions, and have made real sacrifices to protect our health-care system and save lives,” Kenney said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta small business advocate welcomes provincial government’s new financial aid for sector' Alberta small business advocate welcomes provincial government’s new financial aid for sector
Alberta small business advocate welcomes provincial government’s new financial aid for sector – Apr 13, 2021

The Alberta government said it has already committed over $500 million in support through the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant.

“This is intended to help small businesses get through to the other side,” Schweitzer said.

The program is scheduled to be open for applications until May 31 and is capped at $350 million.

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Schweitzer said the program provides flexibility for businesses to decide how best to spend the money to stay afloat.

“Each small business is a little bit different… We really want to make sure we provided flexibility with this program.”

Kenney said a lot of businesses used the first installment of the funding to purchase things like personal protective equipment, as well as install plastic barriers and improve ventilation.

“A lot of businesses I know used this to improve their online offerings,” he added.

“I met a number of small businesses owners who said this program has helped keep them alive… It’s easy to apply and qualify and get the money quickly into their account.”

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said it was good to see the relaunch grant expanded, but added it doesn’t go far enough.

“The program they announced today is a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s late and they still haven’t provided any support to workers,” Notley said, adding it should have been ready to accept applications when additional restrictions were announced last week.

“It barely scratches the surface of what’s needed to help these small businesses through this third wave.”

Notley said small businesses still need additional supports such as direct utility relief, commercial rent support, expanded lines of credit and reduced insurance premiums. For restaurants in particular, Notley would also like to see a cap on fees charged by delivery apps.

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Tuesday’s announcement comes after Kenney announced a new round of restrictions last week aimed at once again reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Read more: Alberta shuts down indoor dining, group fitness amid surging 3rd wave COVID-19, variant cases

Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity and restaurants can only offer takeout or curbside service, although patios remain open.

Kenney faces opposition from some quarters — even within his own caucus — to ease up on public-health measures even as the province is recording more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.

Click to play video: 'Alberta legislature Speaker apologizes for openly opposing COVID-19 health restrictions' Alberta legislature Speaker apologizes for openly opposing COVID-19 health restrictions
Alberta legislature Speaker apologizes for openly opposing COVID-19 health restrictions – Apr 12, 2021

He says restrictions on public gatherings need to be in place a bit longer until vaccination rates reach critical mass.

More information on the relaunch grant and who is eligible can be found on the government’s website.

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With files from The Canadian Press.

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