The federal government is adding $ 600 million to a fund to help small and medium-sized businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following this measure announced Friday by the Minister of Economic Development, Mélanie Joly, the Regional Aid and Recovery Fund reached $ 1.5 billion.
According to the government, the fund has already helped more than 12,000 struggling businesses, ranging from shops on main streets, to hotels and restaurants.
The fund, which is administered by regional development agencies across Canada, aims to support businesses that would not be eligible for other pandemic-related assistance measures.
Of this new money, nearly $ 456 million will go to small and medium-sized businesses facing financial pressures, to help them retain employees and cover their costs.
An additional $ 144 million will enable businesses and rural communities to access capital and technical support, and will be provided by Community Futures Development Corporations.
“What we learned was that in some hard hit sectors, it was more difficult for companies to access capital through financial institutions, and that’s why they came to us,” Ms. Joly explained in an interview with The Canadian Press.
For example, in northern Ontario, half of the businesses supported to date are in the tourism sector, she noted.
“We see this all across Canada. “
The money has also gone to start-ups that need investment to stay afloat, she added.
“It was essential, because we have to keep our innovation and our competitive advantage, despite the pandemic,” she said.
Ms Joly said she was also aware that major city centers “were really going through tough times right now.”
“We are looking for solutions”.
The minister said she spoke with chambers of commerce in several major cities this week to see what the government can do to help.
Meanwhile, the companies urged the federal government to further expand the commercial rent relief program, especially as the rent was due on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business warned that only one-fifth of its members expected to stay open without rent relief.
Asked Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the additional funding was needed because larger programs, such as the one for rent relief, had not helped everyone.
“There were still many small businesses, especially in rural or remote areas, that fell through the cracks of these particular programs,” Trudeau said at a press conference in Ottawa, alongside Mrs. Joly.
Despite this, he added that the federal government would have something more to say about “supporting fixed costs” in the near future.