ontario business grant

Ontario announces new $10K grant for small businesses impacted by Omicron

Ontario's provincial government is finally responding to calls for help from beleaguered business owners who have (once again) been shut down due to public health restrictions with a new grant program entitled the "COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant."

Eligible businesses can receive a one-time payment of $10,000 from the province, with funds expected to arrive sometime in February.

But it's not as easy to qualify as simply being hit hard by the pandemic. To be eligible, a business must have less than 100 employees and would have been required to close under the new public health orders that came into effect on Jan. 5 at 12:01 a.m.

In other words, only those forced to shut their doors under the current modified Step 2 restrictions can qualify for the grant.

Per the government, eligible businesses include:

  • restaurants and bars
  • facilities for indoor sports and recreational fitness activities (including fitness centres and gyms)
  • performing arts venues and cinemas, museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions
  • meeting or event spaces
  • tour and guide services
  • conference centres and convention centres

Businesses that are still open at 50 per cent capacity, such as retail stores, are not eligible for the new grant, though they will be able to apply for the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program when it opens on Jan. 18.

"This program will provide eligible businesses that are required to close or reduce capacity with rebate payments for up to 100 per cent of the property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to public health measures in response to the Omicron variant," reads a news release issued by the Ministry of Finance on Friday morning. 

"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."

The government is furthermore reducing electricity rates to support not only small businesses but workers and families spending more time at home. 

Starting at 12:01 am on Tuesday, January 18, 2022, customers will be charged the off-peak rate of 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, 24 hours a day, throughout the duration of this modified step two period. That's less than half the cost of the current on-peak rate.

The new Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant is not to be confused with last year's Ontario Small Business Support Grant, applications for which are now closed.

Businesses that did qualify for the support last time will, however, automatically be pre-screened for eligibility into the new program. Newly established and newly-eligible small businesses will need to apply for the relief grant once the application portal goes live (the expected timeline right now is a few weeks.)

"Our government understands that public health measures needed to blunt the spread of the Omicron variant are impacting the lives and livelihoods of small businesses, workers and families across Ontario," said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance, in a statement when announcing the relief grant.

"Since the first day of the pandemic, we have provided unprecedented levels of support to protect people, jobs and our economy. We will continue to deliver on that commitment."

Some may not wholeheartedly agree that Ontario has provided adequate support for non-essential businesses in light of how often they've now had to close for many weeks, if not months on end. But an extra $10K is better than diddly squat, and could certainly spell the difference between life and death for some establishments under these precarious circumstances.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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