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MPP can’t say whether defiant businesses got grants

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Tara Jeffrey

Local businesses that defied closure orders during the pandemic shouldn’t be eligible for COVID-19 relief funding from the province, Bob Bailey says.

Sarnia-Lambton’s MPP said he knows some area businesses remained open during lockdowns and some were fined or ticketed for failing to comply with provincial orders.

But he couldn’t confirm whether or not those businesses applied for, or received funding through Ontario’s Small Business Support Grant announced last year.

Bob Bailey

“If they didn’t follow the rules that everybody else had to, then I don’t think they should have qualified, and they shouldn’t have received money,” he said.

“I don’t mind saying that at all. I’m a taxpayer too.”

Bailey said he did make inquiries to the finance ministry.

“They said, ‘If we can find out people that got it that shouldn’t have, we’re taking a look at it,’” he added.

A small number of local businesses — namely gyms and restaurants — made headlines for defying provincial lockdown orders. Some recorded and posted video of their interaction with visiting municipal, provincial and public health officials.

In November, two local businesses were charged under the Reopening Ontario Act as part of a three-day ‘COVID-19 compliance blitz.’

“I don’t know how those businesses could have qualified for the money,” said Bailey, whose office worked with more than 400 local businesses shuttered by the pandemic to help dole out $12 million in funding through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant last year.

This month, the province announced another round of funding through the Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant, for businesses closed under the modified ‘Step Two of Roadmap to Reopen’ that took effect Jan 5.

Eligible businesses must have fewer than 100 employees as of Dec. 31, 2021, must be active in business as of Jan. 14, 2022, and include restaurants and bars, fitness centres and gyms, museums and galleries, performing arts venues, before and after school programs and others.

Those that previously qualified for the Ontario Small Business Support Grants will qualify, and don’t need to apply for the new program.

“Legitimate businesses that were shut down and put out of a source of income to pay their staff and pay their bills,” Bailey said, “these small businesses put in their whole life savings and investments and have been struggling through no fault of their own — trying to get through this.”


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