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Nova Scotia offers new COVID third-wave impact grants, small businesses say it’s not enough

Nova Scotia announced new financial supports for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown but several small businesses say the supports don’t go far enough and are calling on the province to step up with more subsidies.

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Minister of Inclusive Economic Growth Labi Kousoulis announced the province was offering $12 million in taxpayer money to support businesses that were forced to shut down during the third wave of the pandemic, a move to curb the spread of the virus that is leading to hundreds of new cases being reported each day this week.

“Getting COVID-19 under control is the best thing we can do for the health and safety of Nova Scotians and for our business community,” said Kousoulis. “We know that this hasn’t been easy on our businesses.”

On April 27, Premier Iain Rankin announced the province would go into full lockdown with all non-essential businesses closing until at least May 12, while also indicating the financial supports were coming for businesses that were mandated to close.

Kousoulis introduced the details of the province’s $12-million small business impact grant, the province’s third offering of the small business impact grant since the pandemic began.

Click to play video: Small Businesses in NS Make Urgent Call for Financial Support

“Eligible businesses will receive a one-time grant of 15 per cent of their sales revenue from either April 2019 or February 2020 for a maximum of up to $5,000,” said Kousoulis.

More than four thousand businesses utilized the subsidy during the second-wave lockdown and Kousoulis expects it to be no different time around.

“We are moving to help because we recognize these necessary additional public health protocols are difficult for many businesses,” said Kousoulis.

Applications for the new Small Impact Business Grant Part 3 opens this week. while applications for the Small Business Real Property Tax Rebate Program will open the week of May 10.

The impact grant is not enough, says Cathy Hope who was forced to shut down her retail shop Lady Luck Boutique, located in the Hydrostone Market in Halifax’s Northend.

“The Impact grant would make me eligible during this lockdown for a minimum $1,200 or a maximum would of $2,000,” said Hope. “Two thousand is a drop in the bucket.”

Hope said $2,000 wouldn’t cover half her rent and she and many other retail businesses don’t qualify for the Small Business Real Property Tax Rebate Program, which offers businesses a $1,000 rebate or 50 per cent of the commercial property taxes paid for the final six months of the 2020-21 tax year, as it is only available for businesses that shut down during the second wave.

“I guess I’m frustrated about that because the government leads the public to think we are swimming in all these wonderful grants that they are giving us when that is not true,” said Hope.

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At Café Lara on Agricola Street, owner Lara Cusson has a take-out window open but it’s been a tough year on business and revenues are down significantly, she says.

Cusson is disappointed with the announcement of the impact grant and like Hope, says it’s just not enough to help covers the economic losses during the shutdown.

Cusson says she’s been trying to reach people in the department of Inclusive Economic Growth to share her concerns but can’t get anyone on the phone or any email response back.

“They have not been available to answer any of our questions during this time,” said Cusson. “So without the information how are they supposed to tailor the appropriate programs for small businesses across the province?”

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Cusson says she understands the public health measures and supports the province-wide lockdown, but asks why the province isn’t addressing small businesses’ concerns.

“We’re experiencing a public health crisis and a small business crisis and we need all hands on deck,” said Cusson. “If you need to pull people from other departments to address the small business crisis and take our calls and build these programs then they need to act now.”

Kousoulis said he realizes for some the grant won’t be enough, but, it will help others.

“[For] other businesses, it will provide some much-needed cash flow and help them pay some much-needed bills,” said Kousoulis. “It will allow them to also continue to provide curbside pickup and delivery and to have some revenues also coming through.”

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