Many small business owners across Ontario say they are still waiting to receive their first payment from the provincial grant program created in January to provide financial support to those forced to close under the provincewide shutdown.
“To help our small businesses through these difficult times, we have created the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant”, Premier Ford announced in a tweet in late December leading into the 28-day provincewide shutdown.
Ontario’s small business owners have shown resilience & ingenuity throughout the pandemic.
To help our small businesses through these difficult times, we have created the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant. Details on how to apply will be announced in January 2021. pic.twitter.com/a79ho1iGCT
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) December 21, 2020
In March of this year, under the Ontario budget announcement, the program was extended — a timely move, as this year’s second provincial shutdown will continue until at least May 20th.
Confirmed eligible recipients are to automatically receive a second payment equal to the amount of their first payment, for a minimum total support of $20,000 up to a maximum of $40,000.
While some small business owners have already received their second payment, many others are still waiting for their first.
“I have been waiting for a decision on my Ontario business grant for over three months,” Moe Abu Hudra told CityNews. “I continue to call the designated line and no one is giving me a straight answer.”
Hudra, the owner of a hardware supply company, had to cancel his lease as a result.
“We can’t afford it anymore. We put all of our equipment and products in a storage unit while we try to figure this out,” said Hudra. “I am sure there are many small businesses in the same boat as me, waiting over 90 days for a simple yes or no to eligibility.”
Other small business owners, like Lisa Evens, were wrongfully denied the first round of grants.
“I phoned the Small Business of Ontario grant office and was told I could open a dispute and that this was likely an administrative error,” wrote Evens to CityNews.
She phoned back weeks later only to be told that due to the overwhelming amount of applications, it would take a long time to get a response and Evens is still waiting.
Now in this current lockdown, Evens is fearful that her toy store business in Burlington will face further losses.
“We simply cannot wait any longer for these grants if we are to stay in business. By making us wait, the government is ensuring our failure.”
Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, took to Twitter Thursday to express his disappointment in the rollout of the grant, calling it a “disaster”.
He said that many small business owners waiting for their second payment are instead receiving audit emails, adding to the existing stress. Kelly wants the focus to be on getting the payments out while halting audits, alongside expanding eligibility and immediately announcing a third round of funding.
CFIB is calling on @fordnation, @PBethlenfalvy, @VictorFedeli & @PrabSarkaria to (1) expand eligibility for the Small Business Support Grant, (2) get round 2 out the door today & audit later and (3) immediately announce a 3rd round of funding. We are all in this together, right?
— Dan Kelly (@CFIB) April 22, 2021
According to a survey conducted by the NDP, 74 per cent of respondents who have applied for the grant are still waiting.
Results are in for our Ontario Small Business Support Grant.
While @fordnation drags his heels, local businesses are in dire straits.
— Jessica Bell (@JessicaBellTO) April 20, 2021
In an email to CityNews, the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade confirms, as of April 21st over 105,000 businesses have received their first installment and 44,000 have received their second. According to the ministry, there are approximately 120,000 small businesses across Ontario,
“We are processing a high volume of applications and we greatly appreciate small businesses’ patience at this time.” wrote Stephen Chiang, Issues & Engagement Manager.
“As a result, some applications will experience a delay in payment as the government does its due diligence to verify eligibility – and to correct application errors so that eligible businesses are not denied funding.”
In reference to the audits some businesses owners have been receiving ahead of their second payment, Chiang says that some businesses will be asked for additional information in order to receive the funds adding to the delay.