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B.C. gyms, bars, lounges ordered closed due to COVID-19 can apply for relief grants

Grants for closed businesses

Businesses ordered to close last month because of public health measures in British Columbia to limit the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 Omicron variant can now apply for provincial relief grants of up to $10,000.

More than 3,000 business operators could apply for the $10-million relief grant program, which provides between $1,000 and $10,000 to individual businesses based on the number of staff at the time of closure, Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon said Wednesday.

Bars, nightclubs and lounges that do not serve full meals, as well as gyms, fitness centres and event venues, were among those ordered to temporarily close on Dec. 22, with a reopening date set for next Tuesday.

Kahlon said the grant can help businesses with expenses including rent, wages, maintenance, insurance and utilities.

"These businesses are important members of our local communities and provide jobs to thousands of British Columbians," he said at a news conference. "Please give them support, if you can, while they are closed. They need us just as much as we need them."

The B.C. grant complements federal government programs that provide up to 75 per cent wage and rent support to businesses and $300 a week to eligible workers affected by public health orders, he said.

Businesses with five to 99 employees or staff on contracts are eligible for a $5,000 non-repayable grant and those with 100 or more employees or contract workers can receive $10,000, Kahlon said.

The grant applications will be fast-tracked, said Kahlon, who did provide an estimate on how long it will take to process the applications and provide the grants.

But he said businesses that defied the health orders by staying open are not eligible to apply for the province's grant.

"We have built in an auditing system to ensure those businesses that have defied orders will not be able to get access to the supports," Kahlon said.

Meanwhile, two post-secondary institutions announced further delays to the full reopening of their campuses following the holiday break.

The University of British Columbia says in a statement it is now planning a Feb. 7 return to in-person classes after originally considering a return on Jan. 24. The university says students should plan to be back at the Vancouver campus by early February.

Simon Fraser University in Burnaby says it will return to in-person classes on Jan. 24.



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