Mixed local results for Ontario Small Business Support Grant

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The Ontario government has announced a second installment of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant to help small businesses survive the shutdowns and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The original grant, which launched in January 2021, was designed to provide direct support to small businesses that were required to close or significantly restrict their services under the province-wide shutdown which began on December 26, 2020. It provided a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $20,000 to eligible businesses across the province. According to a government of Ontario press release, more than 78,000 small businesses have received the grant, totalling more than $1 billion in support as of March 2, 2021.

Owner of the Bodhi Tree Yoga Centre in downtown Kemptville, OmShanti Charlebois, is very thankful for the $10,000 grant she received from the program. She says she found the application process was easy to navigate, and she received the funding within 10 days of submitting her information online. The grant has been extremely helpful in keeping the lights on at the Bodhi Tree, especially after the December/January shut down which lasted 6 weeks. “Having some money set aside means that we’re able to still pay rent and still pay the bills every month without having to worry so much about the funds coming in,” she says.

Will Pearl of Steven’s Creek Shutter Company had a bit more trouble accessing the grant. Unlike the Bodhi Tree who received their funding in less than two weeks, Will says he waited a month to see anything deposited into his bank account. Concerned, he called MPP Steve Clark’s office who he says were integral in making sure he received the grant. “It wasn’t a terrible experience or anything like that,” he said. “The MPP’s office was very helpful in smoothing things out.”

Both Will and OmShanti are waiting for their second deposits, which have been promised by the provincial government. For the second round of funding, the province has said that all small businesses who received the grant earlier this year will be receiving matching dollars without having to reapply. OmShanti says that while it is a relief to know they will be receiving more support, the government has not been forthcoming in telling businesses when they can expect to see the money in their account. “It would be a little bit better if we knew when we could expect that as it then could help soften some of that anxiety,” she says.

While there are many businesses in North Grenville who have benefitted from the grant, there are some that have fallen through the cracks. Malina Dockendorff, owner of Rideau Roastery, says she has been told she isn’t eligible for the grant because her wholesale coffee roasting business didn’t have to close or limit operations due to the pandemic. Her business has dropped a whopping 70% because most of her clients are now closed office buildings and cafes who have seen a drastic drop in business. “The qualifying number for every other business that did qualify was they only had to be down 20%, so I was significantly below that,” Malina says.

Desperate for support, Malina applied for the grant anyway and was told that her application was discarded because her business name did not match her bank account name, which she says isn’t the case. She submitted another application over two weeks ago and she has yet to hear whether it has been accepted. “It’s certainly frustrating not to be recognized,” she says. “I mean obviously I don’t expect anybody to recognize coffee roasting specifically. This is a very niche industry. But there are loads of people who supply restaurants with whatever goods who have been deeply impacted by this.”

Smiths Falls company Wonton Crunch made the news earlier this year when they went public about their own struggle to survive when their main customers, restaurants, were forced to close. Like Rideau Roastery, Wonton Crunch did not qualify for the Small Business Support Grant because their production facility was not mandated to close or modify operations. Luckily, the media coverage caused such a frenzy that the company has been able find enough new customers to keep the business afloat.

Malina believes that at this point in the pandemic, any business who can show a need should qualify for government support. “Any small business should be qualified for a grant at this point,” she says. “Businesses have never faced this amount of financial stress for such a long period of time in recent history.”

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