Ontario announces $10,000 grants for small businesses forced to close due to public health measures

Province also announces three-week electricity-rate relief and opening date for Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program applications

A "temporarily closed" sign on a store window. (Stock photo)

The Ontario government has announced a new grant program for businesses forced to close under the public health restrictions in response to the omicron variant that took effect on Wednesday (January 5) and will remain in effect until at least January 26.

The Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant will provide eligible small businesses with a one-time payment of $10,000.

These include restaurants and bars, indoor sports and recreational facilities (including fitness centres and gyms), performing arts venues and cinemas, meeting or event spaces, tour and guide services, conference centres and convention centres, driving instruction for individuals, before- and after- school programs, and museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions.

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Eligible businesses that applied and qualified for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant in 2021 — which provided $20,000 to $40,000 for businesses forced to close or significantly restrict services under the December 2020 province-wide shutdown — will not need to apply for the new grant program. Those businesses will be “pre-screened to verify eligibility” according to a media release from the province.

Businesses that have been established since the 2021 grant program, and businesses that are newly eligible under the new grant program, “will need to apply once the application portal opens in the coming weeks,” the media release reads.

Any small business that qualifies for the Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant can expect to receive their $10,000 payment in February, according to the government.

The province also announced it would be providing electricity-rate relief for three weeks beginning January 18. During that period, electricity prices will be set 24 hours a day at the current off-peak rate of 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is less than half the cost of the current on-peak rate.

The off-peak rate will apply automatically to residential customers, small businesses, and farms who pay regulated rates set by the Ontario Energy Board and get a bill from a utility and will apply both to customers on time-of-use and tiered rate plans.

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The government also announced online applications for the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program will open January 18. originally announced on December 22. the program will provide eligible businesses required to close or reduce capacity as a result of public health measures with rebate payments for up to 100 per cent of the property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to the measures.

Eligible businesses required to close for indoor activities, such as restaurants and gyms, will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 100 per cent of their costs. Those required to reduce capacity to 50 per cent, such as smaller retail stores, will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 50 per cent of their costs. A complete list of eligible businesses will be provided prior to the launch of the application portal.

From January 1 to July 1, the province is also providing an optional six-month interest- and penalty-free period for businesses to make payments for most provincially administered taxes, including the employer health tax, taxes on beer, wine, and spirits, tobacco tax, insurance premium tax, fuel tax, international fuel tax agreement, gas tax, retail sales tax on insurance contracts and benefit plans, mining tax, and race tracks tax.

For more information, visit ontario.ca/page/businesses-get-help-covid-19-costs.