WATERLOO – Small businesses in Waterloo are struggling to survive while the Ford government delays urgently needed financial support, said Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife in the following open letter Tuesday, calling on the province to release the promised funds through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant program.
Hon. Victor Fedeli, MPP
Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, & Trade
777 Bay St. 21st Flr.
Toronto, ON M7A 1S5
Tuesday April 20, 2021
Dear Minister Fedeli,
Business owners in Ontario and across Waterloo Region are very concerned about the devastating and ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on their livelihoods. Many are working extremely hard to keep their doors open beyond our current Stay-at-Home Order. I am writing this letter to amplify the calls for help from small businesses in my community. The support promised to them through the Ontario Small Business Grant (OSBSG) needs to be released immediately.
Government officials and MPP’s offices have been hearing from the business community that direct aid is needed. Ontario’s New Democrats have supported small businesses and shared clear recommendations throughout the pandemic through our Save Main Street Plan as well as other legislative and policy recommendations.
Small businesses have faced tremendous challenges since March 2020. We are aware that some small and main street businesses have been successful in applying for and receiving funds through the OSBSG. Small business owners have told us that they need the Small Business Support Grant to pay rent, order inventory, and keep their doors open.
My office has been contacted by a number of businesses that haven’t been as fortunate and are frustrated with their experiences with the OSBSG. I want to share some of their concerns with you:
- A small business owner with a bookkeeping training business, applied January 17th and were notified February 17th that their business did not qualify because of it being in financial sector. They requested an opportunity to amend the application as some errors were made and were promised an access code to re-access their application. They have been waiting 59 days for this 'code.'
- A local craftsperson/artisan applied on January 19. They were asked for banking information (a void cheque and bank statement) in March. They have received no other communication, but their application status online now says “not eligible.” Similar businesses in their industry in similar circumstances have received OSBSG funding.
- A small business owner with four different locations applied for all locations but was only able to receive support for one storefront. This is despite the locations having distinct employees, rent, and sales. It is unfair for a small business owner to choose which of his businesses will receive support and which may not.
- A small business owner of a yoga business, applied for the grant on February 6th, was asked for financial information and is now waiting upwards of 70 days to hear if her business will be eligible for this grant. She said, “It’s these indefinite delays with no communication or respect from our government that are the worst to bear.”
- A family-owned jewelry-making business applied in January and were denied, despite similar businesses in their industry receiving OSBSG funding. They have not been provided with an explanation of why they were denied, but believe that they misclassified themselves on the application. They have not been offered an opportunity to correct.
- A small business property manager who rents a couple of properties for short- and long-term tenants applied in February with no communication for weeks. She escalated several times through email and phone calls. She was eventually denied despite similar property managers receiving the grant.
- A business owner applied for the small business grant at the beginning of March. He was asked to upload bank account information and a void cheque, but the portal wouldn’t accept his credentials. After asking for help multiple times, he continues to wait for assistance.
- An electrician with a retail space applied for the grant but received a notification saying his business was ineligible. His business is struggling to stay afloat and receiving an ineligible status without an explanation as to why is “very frustrating and discouraging.”
- A barbershop owner with 10 employees, who applied for the grant March 7. Deemed “not eligible” with no explanation. As one of the industries that has been closed the longest and experienced a 100% revenue loss in April 2020, this denial is unacceptable.
My team works diligently to support constituents; however, we are unable to solve these Ministry program problems. Please take a look at this program so that business owners can access the support that they were promised. For many of these businesses, the OSBSG will be the difference between them remaining viable or closing forever. I look forward to your reply and to your ministry addressing the significant issues with this program.
Catherine Fife, MPP
Ian Arthur, MPP Kingston & the Islands, Official Opposition Critic for Small Business Recovery
Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board
Greg Durocher, President, Cambridge Chamber of Commerce
Dan Kelly, President, Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Ian McLean, President, Greater KW Chamber of Commerce
Rocco Rossi, President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce
Tracy Van Kalsbeek, President, Uptown Waterloo BIA