The Ontario government has unveiled a new rebate program for businesses impacted by capacity restrictions, but the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says the support program falls short of what companies need.
The province announced on Wednesday that it will introduce an Ontario Business Cost Rebate Program for businesses that have had to reduce capacity to 50 per cent. Eligible businesses will receive rebate payments equal to 50 per cent of the property tax and energy costs incurred while under capacity limit rules. Applications to the program will open in mid-January.
The government also said it will allow businesses to delay payments for most provincially administered taxes in a bid to help companies “free up cash flow during these challenging times.”
"We recognize that these necessary capacity limits to reduce the transmission of the virus will impact businesses, and that’s why we are introducing these new supports, which will put money directly into the hands of business and free up their cash flows during this critical time," Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said in a statement.
But CFIB president Dan Kelly says the new support measures are not enough. The group had pushed provincial governments across the country to announce a fresh round of provincial business grants.
"It's as if the Ontario government doesn't recognize the emergency it has created for small business," Kelly said in a statement on Twitter shortly after Ontario unveiled details of its new support program.
"No new grants, only a thin rebate program to start in January and the promise to defer some bills while creating more debt for small business owners."
Chief executive of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Rocco Rossi, said in a statement Wednesday that the organization is concerned whether the supports will be sufficient to prevent a wave of business closures.
"Applications for the Ontario Business Cost Rebate Program will not open until mid-January. This delay – along with the limited eligibility of the rebate to energy and property taxes – may not be enough for many small businesses to keep their doors open," he said.
"Newly imposed restrictions intended to control the spread of the Omicron variant should always be met with immediate, commensurate and targeted relief, particularly for small businesses who are struggling to stay afloat at this time."
The new Ontario program comes on the same day that the federal government expanded financial relief programs for workers and businesses in response to new restrictions prompted by the Omicron variant. Ottawa will expand the Local Lockdown Program to include businesses subject to capacity restrictions of 50 per cent or more, and the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) to include workers in regions where provincial or territorial governments have introduced capacity restrictions of 50 per cent or more.
With files from Jessy Bains
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.