Help on the way for businesses struggling during pandemic

WINNIPEG — Tuesday, Premier Brain Pallister had news for struggling business owners.

“I’m announcing four additional steps that are going to help our local business bridge to the future,” said Pallister.

Starting Nov. 12, the Manitoba Bridge Grant Program will provide an immediate one-time payment of $5,000 to businesses, non-profit, and charities that had to close due to COVID-19.

The program will provide an additional $5,000 for applicants in January 2021 should the health orders remain in place.

Wendy May – owner of The Oakwood said she was worried her business wouldn’t last the month, but the news of financial help from the province gives her hope.

“The devil is in the details but if it’s as good as it looks on the surface it’s going to be a huge game-changer for so many of us,” said May. “Maybe they’ve heard all of us, not just myself but so many others that are saying we need help.”

In addition to the Bridge Grant Program, The Manitoba Gap Program and the Back to Work Manitoba Wage Subsidy Program were modified to accommodate businesses that need the support.

The gap program has been converted from a forgivable loan to a grant, meaning recipients no longer have to repay the province if they received federal support.

The wage subsidy program has been modified so that the funds are offered upfront, instead of a reimbursement after proof of payment.

Executive Director for The Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Shaun Jeffrey said it sent a letter to the province last week along with several other associations, requesting a financial assistance option like the Bridge Grant Program.

“We have to give credit where credit is due, and I thank you for listening. We feel that collaboration is the starting point of everyone’s success,” said Jeffrey.

The province said it’s asking business groups like Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and others for input on additional long term support programs that will take effect in 2021.

President and CEO of The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, Chuck Davidson said this is a small light at the end of the tunnel for many businesses in the province.

“It’s a sense that there is help for them, and I think the fact that the province indicated today that there could be further help on the horizon is also something that’s going to be beneficial, and provides businesses with that confidence and certainty,” said Davidson.

May is optimistic this financial aid will help her stay afloat.

“It’s still going to be touch and go, but I think if we can have this little bit of help, that just makes things a little (easier) to juggle.”

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