Alberta's premier announces more aid for businesses hit by COVID-19 restrictions

Alberta announces more aid

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says businesses affected by COVID-19 shutdowns will soon be able to apply for more aid.

Kenney says they will be able this month to apply for another payment of up to $10,000 from the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant program.

That is on top of the maximum $20,000 made available under previous phases of the program.

The money will also be available to businesses that began operating since March 2020, as well as to hotels, taxis, and ride-sharing services.

The program offers financial assistance to businesses, co-ops and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees that have faced restrictions or closures due to COVID-19.

Kenney says the money can be used to keep a business running, help expand its online presence or to cover costs for items that help prevent the spread of the virus.

Last week, the province reduced retail store customer capacity to 15 per cent and closed restaurants to dine-in service to help halt a surge in novel coronavirus cases, although patios remain open.

“If a business received the previous payments, they can now receive as much as $30,000 altogether in support from this one program,” Kenney told a news conference Tuesday.

Entertainment venues, including casinos, museums, movie theatres and libraries, remain closed. Gyms cannot hold group fitness activities.

The Opposition NDP has said Kenney’s United Conservative government has failed for a year to properly manage economic supports, and any money is always too little, too late.

Kenney faces opposition from some quarters — even within his own caucus — and is being pressed to ease up on public-health measures even as the province is recording more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily.

Kenney said restrictions on public gatherings need to be in place a bit longer until vaccination rates reach critical mass.

Alberta has delivered 933,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses in the last four months.

“We’ve ramped up our vaccination campaign to deliver up to 40,000 doses a day and we’ll soon be able to deliver as many as 70,000 a day,” said Kenney.

“With natural immunity from those who have already been infected and the protective shield of vaccines, we will hopefully be able to see a return to normal by summer.”

As of Monday, Alberta reported 1,136 new cases of infection for an active total approaching 15,000. There were 390 people in hospital, including 90 in intensive care, and 2,018 deaths.

The main concern is the variant strains of the virus, which are far more contagious and now comprise more than half of all active Alberta cases.

More Canada News