By Mike Baker
Some of the local businesses hit hardest by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible to receive an extra helping hand courtesy of the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization [OHTO].
The group, in collaboration with its six county partners, unveiled a new funding stream earlier this month, titled the Tourism Recovery & Innovation Program [TRIP]. Developed in partnership with Ottawa Tourism, the TRIP capital projects program is geared specifically to tourism-dependent small to medium businesses and provides non-repayable funding of up to 80 per cent of eligible expenses businesses occurred while modifying operations due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, up to a maximum of $20,000.
An OHTO media release states the program was created to help entrepreneurs offset costs related to one-time modifications and/or reopening costs, implementation of health and safety protocols and any digitization measures taken.
Applications for the fund opened on Jan. 15 and will be accepted on an ongoing basis until Dec. 31. Priority status will be given to eligible businesses who apply by Jan. 31.
“We are anticipating a high volume of applications and will be processing submissions on a first come, first served basis. If you are a tourism-dependent business located within the boundaries of Ontario’s Highlands, we encourage you to apply today by visiting ComeWander.ca/trip,” the release reads.
In order to submit an application, business owners must submit their business number, HST number and incorporation date; a copy of their 2019 financials; a copy of their commercial general liability insurance coverage, which must be at least $2 million; copies of all receipts, invoices and quotes they are looking to submit for reimbursement; and a 500-word summary explaining how the requested funds will be used, including a synopsis of how any project may help to protect jobs and maintain the visitor experience.
Elsewhere, the Ontario Small Business Support grant announced by Premier Doug Ford back in December, is now accepting applications.
The grant provides between $10,000 to $20,000 to eligible small businesses who have had to restrict their operations due to the latest provincial lockdown, which kicked in on Dec. 26.
The one-time grant is open to entrepreneurs who have fewer than 100 employees and who have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019. New businesses established since April 2019 will be eligible if they meet the other eligibility criteria [less than 100 employees, forced to close during the lockdown.]
“Small businesses are the heart of Ontario’s economy,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “The Ontario Small Business Support Grant will help thousands of small businesses get through this difficult time, while strengthening our province’s economic recovery.”
According to Fedeli, the money can be used “in whatever way makes the most sense” for an individual’s business needs, such as helping to pay employee wages, or helping to pay rent.
Businesses impacted by the lockdown, which will run until at least Feb. 19, are also eligible for additional supports, including a provincial program designed to provide rebates to offset fixed costs such as property tax and energy bills.
For more information on the various grants and supports available, visit Ontario.ca/COVIDsupport.