WINNIPEG -- Restaurants, bars, and other non-essential businesses that had to close due to Manitoba’s latest COVID-19 orders are now able to apply for a new grant from the provincial government.

The Manitoba Bridge Grant, which was first announced last week, is now open for applications, Premier Brian Pallister announced Monday.

“The idea here is to bridge you through,” the premier said. “It’s not to help you make money from not working, and I don’t think that is what any of us want.

“We know that job number one is to get after COVID, get COVID under control, and in that way, get you back to doing what you want to do, which is running your small businesses, serving people, helping people.”

The grant provides $5,000 upfront to eligible small and medium-sized businesses and organizations that had to close under the critical or red level starting Nov. 12. The money does not have to be paid back.

Businesses who received federal support are also eligible for the bridge grant.

Eligible businesses include non-essential retailers, restaurants, brewpubs, museums, galleries, non-profit organizations, registered charities, and recreation facilities.

The deadline for applications is Dec. 15. If public health orders remain in effect in the new year, the grant will be extended, and another $5,000 payment will be handed out to eligible businesses.

A full list of eligible businesses can be found on the government’s website. 

Last week, the province also announced it would be modifying the Manitoba Gap Program and the Back to Work Manitoba Wage Subsidy Program. The gap program was 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 was changed so that the funds were offered upfront, instead of a reimbursement after proof of payment.

“It will never make up for your losses or your costs through this horrible time, I understand that, but as a former small business person, I can tell you, there are times when a little bit of cash comes in handy, and I hope it comes in handy for you now,” Pallister said.