The B.C. government is offering new financial aid to restaurants and hotels that are losing business due to public health and travel restrictions over the next month.
Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon announced Monday he has added $75 million to the existing $50 million Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant and is opening up the new $125 million fund to more than 5,300 hotels, motels and short-term accommodation businesses affected by a travel ban the province has in place until at least May 25.
“For many B.C. businesses, the next few weeks will be some of the toughest since the pandemic began,” Kahlon said in a statement.
“These additional funds will help businesses cover costs like rent and employee wages to help them through this difficult stretch. We hope for better days ahead for B.C. businesses and to be able to have the kind of summer we all want.”
B.C.’s hotel sector has volunteered to cancel reservations from people travelling outside of their health authorities. The funding will also encompass online vacation bookings through sites like VRBO and Airbnb for private B.C. operators with no employees who are registered as B.C. businesses, said Kahlon.
Businesses must demonstrate they have lost money due to the public health restrictions, and that they are majority-owned and operated in British Columbia – potentially to avoid large hotel chains from eating up the aid.
The government initially announced the aid package for restaurants and gyms earlier this month after a ban on indoor dining in restaurants that now also runs to May 25.
The original fund paid an average of $5,000 in non-repayable grants to businesses with 5 to 99 employees, an amount many restaurants said was inadequate to cover the cost of spoiled food, rent and wages for employees.
Monday’s changes raise the amount for businesses with between 5 and 99 employees to $10,000. Businesses with more than 100 employees can receive $20,000.
“Every day, our government is assessing reassessing and pivoting to ensure that B.C. businesses have the support and funding they need to make it through these extraordinary times,” said Kahlon.
The additional $75 million added Monday comes from unallocated contingency money set aside in last week’s B.C. budget, which the province set aside for rapid response to the pandemic.
B.C. businesses are also eligible for up to $45,000 in the small and medium business recovery grant program from last September. The province has had difficulty giving away the money due to red tape and eligibility requirements, with $195 million of the fund rolled over in last week’s budget to the current fiscal year so the funding wouldn’t expire.