Ontario is launching a new $10,000 grant program for small businesses that have been forced to close due to government restrictions.
The Ontario government announced on Friday that it will introduce a $10,000 grant for eligible businesses that have been shuttered as part of the province's move into a modified Step Two of its reopening plan.
Eligible businesses includes restaurants, bars, indoor sports and recreational facilities, performing arts centres, cinemas, museums, events spaces, conference centres and before and after-school programs.
“Our government understands that public health measures needed to blunt the spread of the Omicron variant are impacting the lives and livelihoods of small businesses, workers and families across Ontario,” Ontario's Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy said in a statement.
Small businesses that qualified for previous grant programs and are eligible for the new round of funding will be pre-screened and not need to apply to this program. Newly eligible businesses will need to apply when the applications open "in the coming weeks." The province said businesses should expect to receive the grants next month.
The province said it will also provide electricity-rate relief for businesses, as well as residents. For three weeks starting at midnight on January 18, electricity prices will be set at off-peak rates 24-hours a day.
The new measures are in addition to the previously announced Business Costs Rebate Program, which allows Ontario businesses to receive a rebate payment for a portion of their property tax and energy expenses during the shutdown.
But the Ontario Chamber of Commerce said Friday that the new measures fall short and will leave many businesses behind.
"On the one hand, the grant is too narrow as it only applies to businesses that were required to fully close. It misses those that are at limited capacity or those losing revenue as a result of restrictions affecting their clients (such as food service suppliers)," OCC president and chief executive Rocco Rossi said in a statement.
"On the other hand, the electricity subsidy is too broad as it will largely benefit ratepayers that are not impacted by current restrictions."
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) had pushed the government to reintroduce a grant program in the wake of the latest round of COVID-19 closures and restrictions. CFIB president Dan Kelly said on Friday that while it was "good news" that the government is providing the $10,000 grants, "if lockdowns go on for longer than three weeks, this is entirely insufficient."
"The grant won’t help those affected by deep capacity restrictions (like retail), suppliers to locked down industries, those losing customers because of fear of Omicron or those who are affected by ‘work from home’ orders (like dry cleaners)," Kelly wrote on Twitter.
"More comprehensive help is needed."
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.