Ottawa businesses plan to take advantage of the government support available to help them cover costs incurred during the weeks-long trucker convoy protest last month.
The federal government previously announced a $20-million investment to help businesses cover operational costs incurred during the occupation. The province pledged another $10 million to support affected businesses.
Starting tomorrow, March 15, Ontario businesses will be able to apply for up to $10,000 in federal funds and $5,000 in provincial money through a portal on Invest Ottawa’s website.
Michelle Groulx, executive director of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas (OCOBIA), said these funds will “instill a bit of confidence into the businesses that we can recover from this.”
Groulx said she has not heard from a single business impacted by the demonstration that does not plan to access the funds.
“Someone has their back,” said Groulx. “We’re planning on going door-to-door over the next few months to tell businesses about how they can access the funds. We really just want businesses to take advantage of it.”
Invest Ottawa president and CEO Michael Tremblay said the portal was designed to be simple, quick, safe and reliable.
“We really do want to keep this agile and simple. It’s extremely important – these businesses have been through enough,” he said.
Tremblay noted it will take about three weeks for businesses that apply to receive funding. He said the program is expected to run over the next six or seven weeks.
Groulx said the partnership with Invest Ottawa is a huge step in the right direction for Ottawa businesses.
“We’re obviously so happy to see these funds given out and using Invest Ottawa was a way to get this out quickly and efficiently,” she said. “We’re happy for this quick turnaround.”
Mona Fortier, MP for Ottawa-Vanier and president of the Treasury Board, said small businesses have shown incredible resilience throughout the pandemic, but especially during the three weeks when anti-vaccine mandate protesters occupied the city’s core.
“The occupation forced many small businesses to shut their doors or significantly reduce their hours,” she said. “This impacted owners’ and employees’ delivery of goods and resulted in significant revenue losses.”
Yasir Naqvi, MP for Ottawa Centre, said the occupation dealt another blow to downtown businesses already hurt by the pandemic.
“Our businesses for almost three weeks were absolutely, completely shut down,” he said. “It was really necessary that we do everything to assist these businesses to reopen and to rebuild again as they work through this pandemic, and also the aftermath of the illegal blockades.”
Groulx said local MPs and MPPs have been “champions” for businesses, attending every BIA meeting and ensuring business owners feel heard. “This is kind of like a step in the right direction towards recovery,” she said.
The federal and provincial funds will help with lost sales and other added costs due to the protest, such as hiring security or lost inventory.
With files from Canadian Press