Small businesses finding themselves ineligible for government recovery grant, says Kamloops Chamber of Commerce

Restrictions slow recovery

Over half of Kamloops businesses are relying on government support to help keep their doors open, according to the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce.

A deadline is quickly approaching for businesses to apply for a provincial government grant, the Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant program, but much of that money remains unclaimed.

Acacia Pangilinan, executive director of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, said the requirements to apply are too restrictive, shutting out businesses.

“A lot of the issues with the program lay in the eligibility requirements. And so we have businesses who can't demonstrate the type of loss that is needed in order to access the grant, but it doesn't mean that those businesses are not impacted,” Pangilinan said.

“We hope that there's consideration into the eligibility opening up or even an extension to that March 31 deadline.”

Todd Stone, MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, said he wants to see businesses get the help they desperately need.

“Here we are, sitting on the third week of February, with only about $21 million of the $300 million in the program actually in the hands of small businesses. That's completely unacceptable,” Stone told Castanet Kamloops.

He said he has been urging the government to change the program so all the money set aside is actually given to businesses.

“That concerns us, when you have $300 million available to support businesses that really need to help that was approved a year ago, a program [that was] announced five months ago, and you're talking about potentially sucking those dollars back into government, mainly because the criteria is way too restrictive.”

Stone said among other restrictions, a particular rule requires businesses to have had a major loss of income in March and April of 2020, but doesn’t take into account those that may have lost money throughout the rest of the year.

“At the end of the day, there's just some really hard lines in the sand that had been drawn here that serve only to prevent thousands of businesses from being eligible for access to funding. And the whole point of the program was to flow dollars to businesses that needed support, so they survive.”

Pangilinan said the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce has been encouraging business owners to apply for the grant if they think they are close to meeting the requirements.

"We want that money here. We want it for our businesses, we want it in our economy. We have some really resilient businesses that could absolutely use that money,” she said.

Pangilinan said it's frustrating to hear businesses say they aren't eligible, even as she hears from the premier and the government that there is still money available.

“The best outcome would be that some of our businesses would get access to that grant.”

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