COVID-19 has taken its toll on businesses, particularly small businesses. Pandemic restrictions have either forced them to reduce capacity, cut their hours or even close altogether. Now some businesses are reporting a significant delay in the time it takes for relief money, promised by the provincial government, to end up in their bank accounts.
“We’re very thankful these grants exist,” said Dan Webster, co-owner of Container Brewing. “But we need these now, we needed them basically when they were announced.”
Container Brewing opened its doors on Franklin Street in East Vancouver in late 2019, and was only operating for a few months before the pandemic struck.
Since then it’s been a roller-coaster ride trying to abide by changing restrictions and pandemic protocols. Currently, it can welcome people on the patio or sell beer to-go at the counter. It applied for both the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant and the Small Business Recovery Grant offered by the provincial government, as soon as they were available. According to Webster, the business was approved for both and is eligible for tens of thousands of dollars, but weeks later, it's still waiting for the money.
“It’s not becoming a recovery grant as much as it is a backfill of our bank account grant,” said Webster. “We’re not alone in this, I know that there are a number of other breweries in our industry that have not received a single dime yet, and it’s not that we waited, we applied that morning it was available to be applied for and haven’t seen anything.”
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, only 37 per cent of small businesses in British Columbia are making normal sales for this time of year. That's why it's keeping the pressure on provincial governments and Ottawa to expedite these payments.
“Small businesses are really keeping their doors open by accumulating debt and the grant programs at the provincial and federal level are simply not scratching the surface,” said Annie Dormuth with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “We are still hearing from small businesses that there is quite a delay in actually receiving payments.”
According to the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, more than 11,200 businesses have applied for the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant, and about 4,900 have been approved for nearly $50 million in combined grants. More than 16,600 businesses have applied for the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant with more than 8,800 businesses approved. This has resulted in more than $190 million in grants approved.
In a statement provided to CTV News, the ministry said: "On average, a Circuit Breaker Grant takes about three weeks to process and a Small and Medium Sized Business Grant application takes about six weeks to process. These timelines include funds being deposited into the business’s account. An application for either grant may take longer if certain information is omitted or inaccurately entered during the application process. For example, if banking account numbers are entered inaccurately or the bank account name does not match the applicant name, this can result in processing delays."