Alex Pilepic says he’s the only person in Canada bearing his surname, but he’s not the only small business operator in Ontario frustrated with the process of applying for COVID-19 small business grants.
“This is a bloody emergency and the government is taking its sweet time in providing support to businesses that have been shuttered for months on end,” said Dan Kelly, the president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
Kelly said “thousands” of businesses are in a position similar to Alex Pilepic, who runs Re-Gear Oshawa, a discount motorcycle apparel retailer.
“I qualified for everything,” Pilepic said, adding he applied for the small business grant program twice.
But he told Global News he didn’t even hear back from anyone at the Ontario government. Pilepic said calls to his local MPP and Premier Doug Ford were not productive.
He said he knew he qualified for $40,000 in provincial grants because a former partner running a similar store had already received that much aid.
Pilepic subsequently contacted Global News for help.
“I am now closed again for at least six weeks, with no support,” he wrote in an email.
Hours after Global News got in touch with Premier Doug Ford’s office and the office of the associate minister of small business and red tape reduction, representatives contacted Pilepic and informed him he would be getting the grant money.
“I haven’t felt this good in a long time,” he told Global News by telephone after hearing the news.
“They said they spoke to you (at Global News) and ‘your grant has been approved.'”
In a statement, an Ontario government spokesperson said “this is an unprecedented, historic level of support going out to small businesses — one that was made necessary by the global pandemic.”
The spokesperson added that as of May 13, nearly 110,000 small businesses have received “their first Ontario Small Business Support Grant payment with nearly 76,000 businesses receiving their second payment for a total of almost $2.7 billion in support.”
Pilepic, who runs the retail store on his own, said the money will allow him to pay utility bills and continue to pay for inventory he will sell when he reopens.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this,” he said.