Feds announce $20 million to support Ottawa businesses impacted by downtown demonstrations
Ottawa businesses impacted by the 'Freedom Convoy' demonstration will be eligible for $10,000 in federal funding to help cover operating costs.
The federal government has announced up to a $20 million investment to provide "non-repayable contributions" to Ottawa businesses who have suffered losses during the three-week blockade.
The Rideau Centre and several small businesses and restaurants have been closed since Jan. 29, when vehicles began blocking downtown streets to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures. The Retail Council of Canada estimated the first seven days of the closure cost the Rideau Centre $19.7 million in lost revenue.
Small businesses will have to apply for non-repayable contributions of up to $10,000 for non-deferrable operational costs not covered by other federal programs.
“We have heard the growing concerns and frustrations from many of the Business Improvement Associations and small businesses in Downtown Ottawa that were forced to close, or have seen their business drastically impacted due to the illegal blockades in Ottawa," Helena Jaczek, Minister of Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, said.
"Our government’s investment of up to $20 million to Invest Ottawa will help local businesses get the support they need to recover."
Invest Ottawa will work with the Ottawa Board of Trade and the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas to deliver the support to businesses. More information on the application process will be posted to the Invest Ottawa website in the "coming weeks," according to the government.
"Building directly on our mission, we strive to help these companies at the heart of our community address significant challenges, survive and thrive once again," Michael Tremblay, Invest Ottawa President and CEO, said.
"In collaboration with the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas, the Ottawa Board of Trade, and fellow partners, we look forward to helping business owners negatively impacted by recent events receive the critical support they need to continue building their business, our community, and economy.”
Pat Nicastro of La Bottega in the ByWard Market says the financial aid is not enough to offset the loss in business during the demonstration.
"We have 20 staff that I've kept employed for three weeks here. Ten thousand dollars is not going to cut it," NIcastro said.
"Ten thousand doesn't make up for the losses that small businesses have incurred but something is better than nothing," Aiana Restaurant owner Devinder Choudhary said. Aiana Restaurant has been closed to in-person dining since December due to COVID-19 restrictions and the downtown protest.
Robin Seguin of Victoria Barber Shop, just steps from Parliament Hill, was thankful for the support.
"If I am eligible then you know that’s absolutely, 110 per cent fantastic," Seguin said. "Sorry, I'm getting a bit emotional. It’s been three weeks…it's been hard."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter the government wants to support small businesses.
"For three weeks now, because of illegal blockades and occupations, businesses in downtown Ottawa have not been able to open or operate safely," Trudeau said. "Today, we announced funding to make sure these small businesses can get the support they need."