Manitoba extends business and restaurant support amid COVID-19 closures
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba extends business and restaurant support amid COVID-19 closures
Manitoba's premier announced an extension to the Bridge Grant for businesses impacted by the new round of strict public health measures and closures.
On Monday, Premier Brian Pallister said the province would be making a fourth round of up to $5,000 available for eligible small and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profits, and charities.
He said eligible businesses that have received bridge grant payments will automatically receive a payment of up to $5,000 as early as May 14 and will be notified by email.
This comes after the province put new public health measures in place as of Sunday that forced the closure of many nonessential businesses and in-person dining in restaurants.
Pallister said the announcement of the new orders made late Friday evening was done out of a sense of urgency with not a lot of advance notice.
"I'm not going to apologize. I am going to say we had to act, we choose to act," Pallister said on Monday. "We believe we did the right thing, but we also recognize that there was an impact on the operations of particularly the restaurant industry."
The premier said because of this, the province is adding a $2,000 top-up for restaurants, which will be in addition to the $5,000 bridge grant payment. The province said this is to help cover the cost of food waste, employee wages, maintenance, or insurance.
"That additional $2,000 is our way of saying thank you to our restaurants for the important services they offer and want to offer," he said. "We want to get back to your restaurants as soon as we can too."
Pallister said the province has also budgeted another $2 million to add to the dine-in restaurant relief program to help restaurants move businesses to a delivery model. The program provides a rebate to restaurants to offset the costs of delivery services.
FOR SOME IN FOOD SERVICE, PROVINCIAL HELP COULD BE TOO LATE
For some in the food service industry, the help could be too late.
Brandy Bobier, the owner of Classic Eats Catering & Baking, said a third shutdown is forcing her to close her catering business for good.
“(I am) slowly getting into more debt because of it, and I just can’t do it anymore," Bobier said. "Another lockdown means at least two or three months before we can do anything remotely close to corporate catering again.”
Wendy May, owner of The Oakwood, welcomes the funding, especially the cherry on top for restaurants.
"That was a surprise, I was not expecting this morning in either direction," May said. "I wasn’t expecting anymore from the province and absolutely not expecting the $2,000.”
May said she worries this shutdown could stretch well past the end of May, and wonders why these measures and grants weren’t announced weeks ago when COVID-19 case numbers started to rise.
“I honestly think if they’d acted a little sooner we may be seeing the tail end like Saskatchewan.”
Pallister said restrictions were already tightened up when the province started seeing 100 cases a day.
“To suggest we should shut down our economy when we have a hundred cases is to suggest the only way to avoid a lockdown is to have a lockdown and that isn’t right.”
FINANCIAL SUPPORT 'A DROP IN THE BUCKET': OPPOSITION LEADER
Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew questioned why the province didn't announce this extension of the bridge grant program on Friday when the new public health measures were announced.
"We heard from many, many business owners over the weekend and as recently as this morning who are very, very concerned," Kinew said.
The opposition leader said much more financial support is needed for businesses.
"It is going to be a drop in the bucket compared to deferred payments, the loan interest, the insurance costs – you name it," Kinew said.
"The province really does need to do more."
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont echoed Kinew's concerns, and said the province should have acted sooner.