ontario small business grant toronto

100 Toronto small businesses say Ford's fumbled the ball

With his cafes under threat of closing, a Toronto business owner applied for an Ontario small business grant promised by the government three months ago but the funding never came, and neither did an explanation.

In December, the Ontario government announced the Ontario Small Business Support Grant program would provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to help small businesses who were required to close or restrict services during the lockdowns.

Early Bird cafe owner Farshid Sahami applied for grants for both his Toronto cafes — Early Bird Wine and Coffee and Early Bird Coffee and Kitchen on Jan. 22.

Sahami says his businesses meet the eligibility requirements: He has lost 70 to 80 per cent of his revenue over the last year, and both his businesses started before the pandemic.

On March 17, he was asked for more information, which he provided, and then on April 1, he checked the status of his application and learned neither cafe was eligible for the grant.

"It's been three months now and we still don't know if we are going to receive the money or not," Sahami told blogTO.

Sahami has called to ask why the applications were rejected, but he says that every time he does, he is told he has to wait.

"The process is so frustrating," Sahami said. "We are relying on receiving this money to pay our bills."

Early Bird isn't alone. Small Business Recovery critic, MPP Ian Arthurlaunched a survey that found more than 100 businesses in Toronto (and hundreds across the province) had had problems with their applications, and at least 85 had not received their funding within the promised 12-week window.

Arthur said he would like to see an appeals process and have businesses that have been rejected have recourse.

"It's not particularly transparent," Arthur says of the process.

Several Toronto small businesses have expressed concerns on the survey.

Carolyn Sandler, owner of Makara Tattoo Shop, said she applied in March and is still waiting for confirmation that it is under review.

"This program is not doing anything to help small businesses NOW! Why is the money not being allocated??" Sandler wrote.

But the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade says they're doing fine.

As of April 23, ministry spokesperson Rebecca Bozzato says that nearly 106,000 small businesses have received their first Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments and more than 44,000 businesses received their second payments for a total of $2.184 billion in support.

Second-round payments are going out to businesses in the coming days, Bozzato said.

Bozzato did not specifically address why some eligible businesses are not receiving grants or information.

"Businesses confirmed as eligible will receive an email notifying them when the payment has been processed," she tells blogTO.

That doesn't help business owners like Sahami who can't get any answers, and each time he calls, he is told he might have to wait two weeks, a month or two months for an answer.

"I might not be here in two months," he says.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez at Early Bird in Brookfield Place

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