Alberta new business owners, NDP call for changes to newly expanded relaunch grant

Some new businesses in Alberta, along with the Official Opposition NDP, continue to question the UCP government’s newly expanded Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant.

The expansion will allow businesses that started operating between March 1 and Oct. 31, 2020 to be eligible for funding. The province estimated some 5,000 new businesses will qualify for a maximum grant of $15,000. The program is aimed at supporting businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses will need to demonstrate a 30 per cent reduction of revenue, using revenue figures from November or December 2020 — compared with any prior month between March to October 2020.

The NDP held a news conference on Thursday, supported by two business owners, who criticized the eligibility and payouts of the grant.

“The Alberta government doesn’t really want to give me a chance as a new business,” restaurant owner Aden Abdi said.

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Abdi, who owns Zaytun Restaurant and Café in Edmonton, opened his doors in July. He said he was seeing monthly revenue of $35,000 before he was forced to close. He said his revenue then dropped “tremendously,” forcing him to lay off staff and take on a night job.

Abdi didn’t qualify for federal or provincial supports, so he greatly welcomed the news of the expanded grant until he did some calculations.

“Based on the revenues, I should get about $5,250 from the grant,” he said. “This amount does not even pay the rent or the bills.

“We’re not asking or looking for handouts… What we’re asking for is the same funding.”

Watch: Expansion of Alberta relaunch grant still leaves some newer businesses out

Summit Auto Service in Calgary opened for business in December 2019. It too had high hopes for the future and had a pretty good start to 2020. Then the pandemic hit.

“It’s been a struggle,” Summit’s director of operations Kristin Finot told Global News.

Finot said that struggle continued when it came to getting any grant money — provincially or federally.

“We can’t even apply for any federal support because we don’t have a 2019 tax,” Finot said. “We have 2020, and we have submitted that, but that doesn’t do.

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“You can’t even get past the first step without having a 2019 tax assessment and that’s really frustrating.”

Finot also lobbied for provincial funding — just to keep afloat and to keep the doors open.

“We’re about a 36 per cent reduction in our sales,” she said.

“Right now, it’s month to month and every month it’s a serious discussion among us owners, ‘Can we make this month? Can we pay our bills? Can we make it?’”

Calgary new business welcomes grant from the province to keep operating. Global Calgary

Luckily, Finot said all that lobbying paid off, and the company has just received some help from the province.

“Every bit of that will help us continue to get through this year, and hopefully get to the other side of the pandemic.”

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Read more: UCP government plans to expand relaunch grant for more Alberta businesses

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has also been fighting for changes for new businesses across Canada.

“New businesses have been locked out and shut out of many of the federal support programs as well,” said Annie Dormuth, the CFIB’s director of provincial affairs for Alberta.

“These are businesses that are just starting out. They don’t have established revenues or savings like businesses that have been in operation for multiple years,  and unfortunately, they’ve just fallen through all of the cracks.”

While she was happy to hear some new Alberta businesses will get provincial aid, Dormuth said she also wonders about the payouts.

“We do question why new businesses are not able to access the full $20,000 that is available to already established businesses,” Dormuth said. “But this will, in our opinion, still help small businesses.”

Global News reached out to the province regarding the eligibility and payout concerns.

“We’ve paid out more than $315 million to over 45,000 businesses through the SME Relaunch Grant,” said Justin Brattinga, the press secretary for the ministry of jobs, economy and innovation,

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“The grant will open to new businesses on Feb. 3, they will then be eligible for up to $15,000. The first payment of $5,000 was intended for those businesses forced to close in the spring, and new businesses that were either ineligible for the grant at that time or not yet open.”

Global News also reached out to the federal government. We were directed to the various programs that are available for businesses in Canada.

When we asked if help was on the way for new businesses, we were told the government is always open to hearing feedback on how to improve programs, but no changes were immediately on the way in terms of new business grants.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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