Firms face a bumpy road to access aid

Prime Minister Brian Pallister continues to promote his government’s business assistance programs on COVID-19 as “direct support through a simple, no-routine application process,” but Manitoba business owners, commercial stakeholders and salaried workers find a process to reach help for anything but simple. .

Emails between county and business owners, shared with Free Press, show long exchanges of government employees asking questions about “timelines” of small business workers, proof of payment receipts or bank deposits in workers’ accounts, and bank account statements dating back to January for companies. Before even thinking about paying them under regional relief programs.

These requirements are stark compared to federal programs, which pay grants or loans almost instantly without such individual scrutiny. These questions are not officially listed on the county portals to access or apply for aid money.

Moreover, the provincial absorption figures paint a different picture from the prime minister’s claims.

According to provincial data, as of late November, only $ 8.3 million has been paid so far from the combined budget of $ 120 million for the return to work in Manitoba, the return to work this summer and student wage support programs. From the career reboot program, $ 8.2 million was paid; Under the Gap Protection Program, $ 56 million out of a total of $ 120 million earmarked for these two programs.

Less than a third of the amount allocated to funding has been paid for the Manitoba Bridge Grants Program for Eligible Business – the $ 5,000 Pallister program is expanding as a “core support” with red code restrictions extended until at least January 8 So far, about 6,300 companies have received grants, With total government spending of $ 31 million of the $ 100 million earmarked for it.

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Ballister said that despite the previous low absorption, the government is allocating another $ 100 million under the Bridge Grant program to include home businesses that were not previously subsidized under the program. It would include event planners, photographers, artists, and merchants who did not operate a retail location and were ineligible for the first round of payments.

Ballester said the payments would be upfront and would not include any requirements for repayment.

“We have the strongest support for small businesses of any county in the country,” Ballister said. “We know we appreciate you and want to help you get through it, so we are doing our part now by helping you through this difficult time.

But in interviews with Free Press, business owners said they do not share the prime minister’s views on the effectiveness of the government subsidy. Leaders from the Manitoba and Winnipeg Chambers of Commerce are concerned about inconsistencies about “red tape” in the aid programs that the county claims do not exist.

“So far, these are just invasive questions and no funding,” said Aaron Bernstein, who owns Bernstein’s Deli in Winnipeg and has yet to receive Bridge Grant funding, despite frequently following up with the county.

He said, “I don’t understand why they need to know the exact details of whether or not one of my employees got a certain check at a specific time and deposited it.” “Not surprisingly, the absorption is very low.”

Bernstein added that he has shared all the information requested, such as additional “timelines” that the county has requested, but says he still has to wait weeks before receiving a response.

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Glen Kowalchuk, who owns a Winnipeg-based fogging company called ULV SANI-FOG SOLUTIONS, said he was “shocked” because his company was told on Tuesday that it could not qualify for the Bridge Grant Scholarship because it doesn’t have a storefront.

Hours before Pallister announced the expansion of the program, Kowalchuk received a letter from Assistant Deputy Minister Ilana Dadds in which he said that the program “is for companies operating from physical storefronts or buildings accessible to the public that have been forced to close because the current public is a health matter.”

Both the prime minister and finance minister are copied at the exchange, which Kowalshock shared with FreePress.

“I emailed them to ask them about the expansion after my letter, and whether or not I was eligible,” said Kwalshock. “But I have no idea if I am doing this, and I suspect I will have to wait several weeks before finding out.

“It’s strange to me because it seems like one government administration from another has no idea what to do or say. And we’re all stuck in the middle.”

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There will be a lot of companies like Kowalchuk that need help but will not qualify under the current assistance rules, said Jonathan Allward, Prairie’s director at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

He said: “It is a very big problem because it seems that the province is looking at this from a vacuum.” “And they do not see the long-term economic, social and economic consequences of keeping businesses closed without meaningful support.”

“Ultimately, I think only a select few of people make major decisions here and they seem to affect everyone – especially in the business community,” Alward said.

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