The province is opening up the Manitoba Bridge Grant to cover new businesses as the code red restrictions continue to keep storefronts closed across the province.
Hotels, resorts, lodges, outfitters, travel agencies, janitorial service companies and licensed passenger transportation businesses will now be eligible for funding under the program.
The deadline to apply for funding has also been pushed back, Premier Brian Pallister announced Tuesday, to Jan. 31.
The changes are as a result of the province’s decision to renew code red restrictions on Jan. 8 for another two weeks. At the time, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the extension was to monitor an increase in COVID-19 cases from gatherings over the holidays.
The program provides grants for small and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profits and charities to cover expenses and costs while health registrations force them to shut down.
Newly eligible businesses will be able to receive up to $10,000 — a $5,000 payment for when the program was first announced in November and another to reflect restrictions being extended into 2021.
The province is focused on the needs of the business community, Pallister said.
"We want to see our businesses succeed, but we know now that is very difficult through these times of restrictions," he said
"Our business community will be able to safely reopen at some point in the future and we hope it will stay open as well — but that’s all in our hands and it all depends on our willingness to do the right thing."
To date, Pallister said the province has a total of approximately $104 million in funding to roughly 10,000 businesses through both phases of the program.
When asked on Tuesday, Pallister said he would "never dismiss" the possibility of a third $5,000 payment going to businesses if needed, but said it is up to whether or not Manitobans follow health guidelines.
There is concern that cold weather could drive people to socialize inside, Pallister said, which would likely cause COVID-19 cases to rise.
"All of us would love to see an end to every restriction tomorrow, remember that these restrictions have saved lives — hundreds of lives," he said.
Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont said the expansion of the Manitoba Bridge Grant is positive but it was "another box of bandaids."
"It’s like taking a water pistol to put out a fire, it’s not enough, especially this late in the pandemic. There are lots of people who needed this help a long time ago and they’ll burn through this grant and they’ll need more shortly to say open," he said.
Lamont said the move is reactive and the province needs a plan to get through to the end of the pandemic.
Current health restrictions are in place until at least Jan. 23
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