Manitoba artists, photographers and more home businesses now eligible for $5K COVID-19 grant

Small business owners in Manitoba who run their operations out of their homes will now have access to COVID-19 financial supports previously not available to them.

Beginning Wednesday, a range of home-based businesses will be able to apply for a grant equal to 10 per cent of revenues of their most recent calendar year, up to $5,000, through the Manitoba bridge grant.

Small business owners criticized the first phase of the program last month for omitting professions such as photography, event planning, artists, tradespeople and other small businesses without a storefront.

Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday the second phase will extend to those professions and more.

“Not all businesses operate a storefront,” said Pallister. “But these businesses are making sacrifices, too, and so we’re going to expand the Manitoba bridge grant to include home-based businesses who’ve seen their market and their source of income greatly reduced because of public health orders.”

Extended health orders

Pallister made a series of announcements Tuesday, including a confirmation that Manitoba will get more doses of the Moderna vaccine than previously expected.

He and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin also extended provincewide public health orders into January that outlaw indoor gatherings over the holidays.

Pallister said the move to broaden the bridge grant supports comes after consultation with a variety of provincially-elected officials. 

The bridge grant isn’t a loan; applicants who are approved get to keep what they’re allotted without having to pay it back. Businesses can use the support as they see fit, Pallister said.

The first phase was announced Nov. 10, about two days before code red restrictions under the province’s pandemic response system came into effect, forcing widespread closures of businesses and non-essential services. 

During that round, potential applicants included restaurants, bars, recreation and sports facilities, theatres, museums, charitable organizations, non-profits, faith organizations and more forced to close their doors this fall amid surging COVID-19 cases and accompanying restrictions.

A variety of home-based business owners left out of that round pushed back.

Liberals see ‘wrinkle’ in grant

Pallister alluded to discussions with political opponents at the Manitoba Legislature as helping to inform the shift, said Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont.

Liberal Members of the Legislative Assembly Cindy Lamoureux (Tyndall Park) and Jon Gerrard (River Heights) were among those advocating for an expanded program, said Lamont.

He said one “wrinkle” that appears to have been inserted in the latest round of the grant is that it is limited to 10 per cent of the business owner’s income in the previous calendar year.

“I actually don’t think that limit should be in place; maybe that’s another letter that we’re going to have to write,” he said. “But the fact that the bridge grant program is happening is important, that it’s expanded is a positive move.… We have to be grateful even if it’s very late.”

The president of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce said he too is grateful.

“There are a lot of small businesses struggling, especially with the recent shutdowns,” Spencer Day said in a statement. “This is a welcome adjustment to the program.”

The second phase opens to applicants at noon Wednesday on the province’s website. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31.

Eligibility requirements state only Manitoba-based businesses can apply. They must have been active as of Nov. 9, and had a valid business number as of then.

More than 6,300 businesses applied and secured over $31 million in supports through the bridge grant so far, said Pallister.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Dec. 8, 2020:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Tuesday, December 8, 2020. 48:53