Ravi Kahlon
(Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, BC Gov Flickr File Photo)

Changes were announced today to provincial COVID-19 business grants that lower eligibility requirements and increase payments.

The Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant program was originally launched on October 9 through the government’s “Stronger BC” initiative.

It offered grants between $10,000 to $30,000 for businesses that experienced a revenue loss of at least 70 per cent during March and April 2020, and a subsequent loss of at least 50 per cent from May 2020 onwards.

On Monday, B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said that the program would be modified to offer base grants to businesses suffering a subsequent loss of 30 per cent from May 2020 onwards.

The program also initially offered an additional grant of either $5,000 or $10,000 for Tourism-related businesses saw 75 per cent of their total revenue come from visitors travelling to B.C. for leisure.

Kahlon says that the maximum amount Tourism-related businesses can now receive has increased to $15,000.

Amounts are based on the number of employees, with businesses employing 0 to 1 people eligible for $5,000, 2 to 4 eligible for $10,000, and 5 to 149 $15,000.

Tourism-related businesses also only need to demonstrate that 50 per cent of their business is tourism-related.

The government also reduced a requirement that businesses needed to be in operation for at least three years prior to March 10, 2020.

With Monday’s changes, they need to have been in operation for at least 18 months prior to the application date to the program.

Minister Kahlon said at a press conference that the increased payouts and lowered criteria will make it easier for businesses to get the help they need.

“We want businesses to have access to the grants offered in this program,” said Kahlon. “We know for many of you, they will serve as a lifeline right now.”

Last week, the official opposition criticized the government for delaying relief to tourism operators in the province.

BC Liberal Tourism, Arts and Culture critic Teresa Wat said that businesses were closing their doors as a direct result of NDP inaction.

“With the NDP planning on delaying the 2021 budget until early May, our tourism and hospitality sector may not see any additional support for another six months,” Wat said in a statement.

“The time for real action and real support from this government is long past due.”

In response to those criticisms, Kahlon referred to past actions taken by the NDP government during their first term, including a tax credit for rehiring employees and changes to liquor license rules.

“There are some businesses that unfortunately have closed, but that are many that are holding on,” he said.

“These supports that we’re talking about today will be critically important for those businesses.”

Applications for the revised Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant can be submitted online at bcbusinessrecoverygrant.com.

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