Ottawa businesses still have time to apply for convoy relief funds

Downtown businesses affected by the “Freedom Convoy” still have time to apply for up to $15,000 in non-repayable relief.

The fund provides financial support for owners who were forced to close, limit their hours or who faced with damage to their stores because of the trucker occupation that snarled much of the capital’s downtown core in January and February.

“This means a lot after the winter, and after COVID and everything. The last things we were expecting was a demonstration of that magnitude,” says Claudia Arizmendi Garza, who owns The Cupcake Lounge in the ByWard Market. “It was five weeks where people are still not coming downtown and also stop going to other parts of the city. People were afraid.”

Arizmendi Garza closed at the onset of the protest and then again towards the end. In between, business hours were shortened. On Tuesday, she was notified that she has received a grant – money that will be used to help cover rent, employee wages and ingredients for the store’s signature products.

Invest Ottawa is managing the applications and distribution of the $20M from the federal government, to support impacted businesses with 100 workers or less. Along with the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas, teams are out on foot, passing flyers to shop owners around downtown to let them know help is available.

“If you’re a smaller business, $15,000 can be a significant opportunity. If you’re a larger business, you know it’s part of the solution,” says Michael Tremblay, Invest Ottawa President & CEO. “We’re trying to cover off several different areas.

He says that could include security costs, repairs, or wages, for example.

So far, 1,400 applications have been received and $4M has been handed out. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis. Invest Ottawa has extended the program deadline to May 15.

“In the ByWard Market alone we have over 600 businesses that would have been affected and they include restaurants, retail and professional services, and appointment-based services,” says Kalin McClouskey, executive director with the ByWard Market BIA. “We had some businesses that had up to 80 per cent reductions in their typical February, and February is already a difficult month.

While Ottawa’s downtown core was the most affected, protest problems affected many other parts of the city, and the funding is available for those businesses as well.

“It includes places like Westboro, Wellington West, the Glebe, Preston Street BIA, and Vanier because those areas were also impacted—maybe not to the same degree as our downtown Ottawa businesses, but certainly to a degree that they should be applying,” says Michelle Groulx, executive director with the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas. “We want absolutely every business that has been impacted to apply. There are some people who don’t believe that they need the funds compared to other businesses. In fact, there is enough there for everyone.”

Applications for the Downtown Business Relief Fund can be submitted here.

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