Manitoba extends bridge grant program to seasonal businesses

Manitoba is widening the reach of a program to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 public health restrictions.

Effective immediately, the bridge grant financial relief program has been opened up to seasonal businesses as well as new ones that were not operating when the program’s original Nov. 10 deadline was set.

In a news release issued on Tuesday, Finance Minister Scott Fielding estimated nearly 1,000 businesses could be eligible.

The program makes up to $5,000 available for eligible small and medium-sized businesses, home-based businesses, not-for-profits and charities.

The bridge grant program, which has been criticized for gaps affecting a number of businesses, has provided more than $291 million to over 15,000 private enterprises, not-for-profit organizations and registered charities since November 2020.

The program has now offered four rounds of grants with several businesses qualifying for each one, receiving up to $20,000.

In May, the province provided a $2,000 top-up to nearly 1,800 restaurants to compensate for food wastage, as restaurants had pre-ordered supplies for the Mother’s Day weekend when public health orders closed dining rooms.

The province also announced Tuesday that it is extending that food waste top-up to new applicants. They would receive the $5,000 bridge grant plus the $2,000 top-up for a total of $7,000.

New applicants will not, however, receive retroactive payments for previous rounds of the program, Fielding noted.

The government is also offering the top-up to businesses that offer prepared food services — and which received a previous bridge grant — but did not qualify for the original top-up as it was only provided to restaurants.

There are approximately 600 businesses that offer prepared food services, such as hotels, lodges, outfitters, bars and lounges that will automatically receive the $2,000 top-up by June 25, the province said.