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New small business grant just a stopgap: Olds chamber president

A longer-term business support strategy is needed, Clare Janitz says
WebClare Janitz Chamber president-1
Olds & District Chamber of Commerce president Clare Janitz says she wished a grant program to help hard-hit businesses had been available sooner. File photo

OLDS — Olds & District Chamber of Commerce president Clare Janitz says new money announced by the province to help small businesses get through the pandemic is a start, but a more comprehensive strategy will be needed for the future. 

On Feb. 17, Premier Jason Kenney and Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer announced that an additional $10,000 will be made available to small and medium-sized businesses that have seen their revenue plunge, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

That money is in addition to previously-announced grants of up to $20,000 for a new total of $30,000. 

Businesses that demonstrate a 60 per cent drop in revenue will be eligible for a grant of 15 per cent of their typical monthly income, up to a maximum of $10,000. 

Via the province’s enterprise relaunch grant, announced earlier, the government provided two payments for a total of up to $20,000 for small businesses that saw their revenue fall as a result of pandemic restrictions. 

That means small and medium-sized businesses can receive up to $30,000 if they meet the program’s criteria.  

The support is available to companies with fewer than 500 employees and does not need to be repaid.  

The money can be used for things like covering the cost of personal protective equipment, paying rent or to help pay staff salaries. 

In total, the provincial government is earmarking $120 million to for its new Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit. 

The government's goal is to have that program up and running by April so it can replace the existing Enterprise Relaunch Grant, as its application window closes at the end of March. 

“I was happy to see the government recognize how the small business owner is struggling and added more funding," Janitz wrote in an email. “I wish it was available sooner.” 

The problem, said Janitz, is that this money is really only a stopgap. 

“These are only temporary measures to keep small businesses afloat and if this continues, a long-term strategy will need to be developed,” she wrote.