April 29, 2021
Hon. Victor Fedeli
Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade
College Park 18th Flr 777 Bay St
ON M7A 1S5
Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria
Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction 7th Floor, 56 Wellesley St. W
Re: Concerns with the Ontario Small Business Grant
Dear Minister Fedeli and Minister Sarkaria,
Thank you for your continued leadership to support employers as they experience economic disruption related to COVID-19. As the situation continues to evolve, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) is taking concerns from the business community and communicating them to all levels of government.
As you know, small businesses are experiencing significant hardships during the pandemic and unprecedented revenue losses. Comprised of 140 chambers of commerce and boards of trade in every corner of the province, the Ontario Chamber Network has worked tirelessly and closely with the province’s small business community, providing critical supports and information to support members. I am writing to you to share the growing concerns we have heard from our Chamber Network as it relates to the Ontario Small Business Grant, which centres around four key areas:
Lack of communication with applicants:
• Applicants have been denied without reason and/or insufficient explanation.
• Applicants have been unable to speak to anyone via the helpline or different support channels.
• Applications have been deemed ineligible for missing information rather than being asked to provide that additional information.
Lack of clarity:
• The appeals process is unclear. Businesses who thought they were eligible have been rejected, with no way to follow up and no timely response from government.
• Applicants have been declined because they are self-employed and use their personal bank accountants for their business as opposed to a business account.
• Applicants have trouble applying to the grant if English or French is not their first language.
Technical issues with the system:
• The system continues to crash or does not properly save applicants’ information. Consequently, some business owners have had to restart the entire application processes, wasting precious time and resources as a result.
• Applicants are asked to provide additional information before the second round of payment is processed, but the link provided does not always work.
Short timeframe to submit an application:
• On March 24, the province announced through Budget 2021 a new intake round for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. The original deadline to apply was March 31, which was subsequently extended to April 7, 2021.
• We acknowledge and thank your government for doubling the grant in the recent budget. The grant has helped many organizations survive the crisis thus far. Moreover, we commend the province for making this an automatic top-up instead of asking businesses to re-apply. This will reduce the administrative burden on both businesses and government.
• However, some small businesses were unable to meet the April 7 deadline as many are grappling with numerous pressures during the pandemic. The short, two-week window is unfeasible and, consequently, the grant may not support the very businesses it was intended to help.
Accordingly, the OCC is asking your government to address the above issues related to the Ontario Small Business Support Grant by considering the following recommendations:
• Improve transparency and clarity of government responses to applicants who have been denied. As part of this communication, the government should provide greater clarity on the appeals process and decision-making criteria.
- Ensure relevant information and assistance is available in other languages for applicants whose first language is not English or French.
• Fix the back end of the online system for businesses trying to access this grant.
• Provide businesses with a sufficient timeframe and clear eligibility criteria to submit an application, be it for future rounds of the Small Business Support Grant or other similar programs. Specifically, we hope that the forthcoming Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant accounts for the shortcomings of the Small Business Support Grant identified above.
Public health and safety are priorities for all Ontario businesses. We will continue to monitor and assess new developments pertaining to COVID-19 closely and work with our members, partners, and all levels of government to provide support to business.
President and CEO
Ontario Chamber of Commerce
April 22, 2021
Dear MP Michael Barrett,
I am writing you on behalf over 300 businesses who are in dire need of support from the Federal Government to make recommendations so that they will provide more support and easement to the small business community.
Over the last few years, the Federal Government has given a large amount of financial support to large corporations for example, Air Canada $5.879 billion, Mastercard $50 million and Bell Canada $240 Million in wage subsidy program or other related programs, yet our small businesses have to pay back loans of $60k by December 2022 after being closed for six months or more and operating at 50% capacity for the other months, which has been next to impossible to accomplish for many SME’s.
Our Chamber is concerned over the recently released Federal Government Budget specifically the limiting of the programs and winding them down by September. We would like to see them exist until March 30,2022 as well as a recommendation to allow small businesses that make under $1 million dollars per year keep the 60k loan.
The Chamber strongly recommends that by allowing this to happen, these measures will allow small businesses to get back on their feet and have some relief of not having more debt to pay off. Thereby providing some comfort for them to focus on bouncing back from covid-19 and keep their doors open.
The small businesses in our community are the backbone of economic growth and job creation, please forward our recommendations on behalf of all small businesses in the region. We look forward to hearing from you and how you can advocate for small businesses.
Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce
Katherine Hobbs was appointed to the Tourism Economic Recovery Ministerial Task Force by Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism & Culture Industries
In February 2021 Katherine Hobbs was appointed to the Tourism Economic Recovery Ministerial Task Force by Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism & Culture Industries. Meetings commenced weekly starting in March and the task force will conclude with a final meeting on April 15, 2021.
The task force is a forum for 20 sector partners and leaders in Ontario to share ideas, collaborate and provide advice and information to the Minister on strategies, tactics and approaches to support Ontario's tourism economic recovery. The task force is exploring opportunities and barriers related to topics such as marketing and communications, travel/tourism incentives, products, experiences and destination development. The task force also considers existing ministry programs, policies and investments and looks at ways in which these can be leveraged, amplified or strengthened.
Additionally the 20 task force members split into three sub committees for additional meetings to further look at the following topics: 1) Travel Incentives & Marketing, 2) Signature Destinations, and 3) Gateway Cities. Katherine is a member of the Signature Destinations subcommittee that examined ways for increasing overall length of stay in geographic areas of Ontario by providing advice and ideas related to products, experiences and destination development, and how recovery can be inclusive to all.
Ultimately the Task Force will be providing a report to the Minister.
Committee meetings have provided an opportunity to share ideas with task members comprised of MPP's, municipal councillors, and leaders in every aspect of tourism including business travel experts. Meetings have featured talks from a number of Ontario cabinet ministers, allowing the task force to ask questions and discuss issues related to Ontario parks, the environment, natural resources and forestry.
Katherine said this has been an incredible experience to understand more in regards to the different challenges experienced by different tourism sectors, and in the different geographic areas of the province. It has given us all an insight into the value of working together to benefit the province's overall tourism goals while achieving our individual destination's goals. Being on the task force has allowed her to represent our area of the province all along the St. Lawrence River from the Quebec border on to the west, and ensure this area is understood in terms of who visits and what the challenges and opportunities are. It has also given her a direct link to talk to ministers in the Ontario Government about opportunities locally and get advice for product developers here in our area.
Katherine's grateful to Minister MacLeod for appointing her to the task force that has allowed her to share her thoughts and ideas and hear and learn from others. Minister MacLeod fierce commitment and drive has been an endless benefit to the heritage, sport, tourism and culture sectors that were hit first, and so hard by the pandemic. The creation of this Economic Recovery Task Force is just another example of her amazing support of our sectors.
The Chamber is thrilled that Katherine is still representing Tourism for our community in another capacity and she also is on the Advocacy Committee for the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce.