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Province offers assistance to hard-hit accommodation sector

Expanding the list of businesses eligible for financial assistance, the province has launched the Ontario Travel and Small Business Support Grant, aimed at operations such as hotels, bed and breakfasts and amusement parks.

The new program fills in some gaps that may have been missed with the earlier Ontario Small Business Support Grant. It provides for a single grant as a one-time payment of $10,000 to $20,000 for a qualifying business in the industry. To qualify for the fund, a business must employ less than 100 people and be down at least 20 per cent in revenue between 2019 and 2020. Those businesses that received the Ontario Small Business Support Grant are not eligible.

“Prior to the pandemic, Ontario’s tourism generated more than $36 billion in economic activity and supported more than 400,000 jobs across the province,” said Lisa McLeod, minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, in announcing the new program.

The news was welcomed by Minto Schneider, CEO of Explore Waterloo, the region’s tourism group.

“We’re delighted to see the opportunity come out. This is something that was promised in the provincial budget, so, we knew it was coming. But, of course, we didn’t have the details around it until yesterday with the minister’s announcement.” 

The funding will help a number of tourism businesses in the region, said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris.

“This is obviously a great initiative that was put forward through the 2021 budget. This will go kind of above and beyond what has already been done through the more traditional small business support grant,” he said, pointing to the hotels in the St. Jacobs area as an example.

“It’s obviously been tough for them. They’ve been able to stay open, but the fact that with a stay-at-home order, and with the market being closed – the market is typically the main draw for people that are staying in St. Jacobs. And, of course, all of the shops that are in the village and the Drayton Entertainment theatre just right in that market district there – it’s been difficult for them, for sure,” said Harris.

“It’s good to see that they’re going to be eligible for this. There are some criteria that obviously you have to fit into, but I would think that most of the hotels that we have in the region and then St. Jacobs will be eligible. And it also covers bed and breakfasts as well, which is great.”

For those businesses that do not qualify, Explore Waterloo has launched a second round of Tourism Adaptation and Recovery Program (TARP) funding, which is available to help offset costs of health and safety protocols or renovations and equipment to help facilitate physical distancing measures for up to $5,000 provided through a pool of funding created by the region, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo and the Township of Woolwich.

Explore WR has received 38 applications so far ahead of the application deadline on May 31, said Schneider. 

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