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B.C. budget earmarks $120M to help tourism sector recover

B.C. is allocating $120 million in new funding for the pandemic-devastated tourism industry in its 2021 budget.

On Tuesday, the government announce that $20 million of that money will go to extend the existing community destination development program, which funds new tourism infrastructure like trails or airports.

The remaining $100 million has not yet been allocated to specific projects, but the province said it will be aimed at supporting “major anchor attractions” that draw visitors to B.C.

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“We’re continuing to work with them to identify how to best meet their needs,” Finance Minister Selina Robinson said.

Absent from supports was any new money for the restaurant and hospitality sector, which saw restrictions on indoor dining extended through the May long weekend on Monday.

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The province announced $50 million for those businesses earlier this month, and Robinson said the province would have more to say on the industry in “the coming days.”

The budget also contained continued funding for existing COVID-19 business supports, including $195 million for the small and medium-sized recovery grants.

The total budget for that program — which helps offset fixed costs like rent, diversify services, improve buildings or move online — remains unchanged at $345 million.

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The program has been streamlined to improve access and expand eligibility.

The budget also continues funding funding for the Increased Employment Incentive Tax Credit, previously announced as a part of the StrongBC Economic Recovery Plan, to the tune of $150 million.

The credit applies to businesses that increased their payroll through hiring or giving raises in the final quarter of 2020.

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A PST exemption on certain machinery and equipment for businesses pivoting due to the pandemic is also being extended.

The economic recovery aspect of the budget earned a “B” grade form the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, which said the government relied heavily on previously announced measures, and offered nothing new for businesses impacted by recent “circuit breaker” restrictions.

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However, it also noted that “significant amounts” of money in the plan remain unallocated.

The 2021 budget includes $3.25 billion in COVID-19 contingency funding — $1.1 billion of which has been left available for unanticipated spending needs in the year to come.

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