Funding to support small businesses should be inclusive, says Gore Bay business owner

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GORE BAY – A small business owner in Gore Bay says that if the province is providing financial support to small businesses that were affected by the latest shutdown (due to the pandemic), they should all be included and the province should make businesses aware this funding is available.

“My main purpose for raising this issue is to raise awareness to the Ministry of Finance that Ontario support needs to be inclusive of all small businesses that were affected by the latest shutdown. It was also about bringing more awareness to all small businesses affected but who were not aware of the program. If we can help one small business to get help it needs to survive through the pandemic then it will be worth it,” said Michael Lalonde, co-owner of Raven’s Roost Medley’s based in Gore Bay. The store opened its doors this past September. Mr. Lalonde provided his comments in an email to the Recorder on January 1.

The Province of Ontario recently announced funding support to small businesses that were forced to shut down because of the latest measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Mr. Lalonde looked into the support and realized the requirements to apply would exclude their business, even though they were required to be closed. He raised the issue through Twitter to the Ministry of Finance and the premier’s office but received no response.

Mr. Lalonde explained under the Ministry of Finance website in January it was announced applications would open for the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will help small businesses that are required to close or significantly restrict services under the new province-wide shutdown effective December 26. 

According to the ministry website, starting at $10,000 for any eligible business, the grant will provide businesses with dollar-for-dollar funding to a maximum of $20,000 to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the province-wide shutdown. To qualify, a business must demonstrate that they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20 percent when comparing monthly revenue of April 2019 and April 2020.  Businesses will be able use the support in whatever way makes the most sense for their situation, for instance on employee wages, or support maintaining their inventory. However, to receive the grant, a small business must be required to close or restrict services subject to the province-wide shutdown effective 12:01 am on December 26; have fewer than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and have experienced a revenue decline comparing April 2020 to April 2019 revenues. This latter point would leave Mr. Lalonde’s business from qualifying for the funding. 

Businesses that are not eligible include those that were already required to close prior to the introduction of modified stage two measures and essential business permitted to operate with capacity restrictions, (e.g., discounts, and big box stores selling groceries, supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies and beer, wine and liquor stores).

After reviewing the website, it became clear to the store owner that more needed to be done to ensure that all small businesses affected are able to receive the support, including businesses such as his Gore Bay store that were not in operation in April but were still required to shut down.

Mr. Lalonde pointed out that when the government provides support in the form of grants it is not free money but is targeted assistance to, in this case, small businesses. Many of the businesses on Manitoulin Island and around Northern Ontario are very resilient and self-reliant while also sharing amazing community support, but this grant can not only help these businesses but also the small towns and community in which they live and work.

Mr. Lalonde raised the issue with CTV News and was interviewed by Ian Campbell on the issue and Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha was also on hand for the interview and to provide comments. “I was very impressed to see the MPP take a direct interest in this issue, even coming over to meet with us on New Year’s Eve,” said Mr. Lalonde.

As a result of raising this issue, it has been noted that the ministry has indicated they are carefully considering options to effectively support all affected small businesses, Mr. Lalonde added.