The province has expanded its grant program supporting small- and medium-sized businesses looking to expand or pivot to online sales, more than doubling the amount of money initially available for struggling owners.
Premier John Horgan and Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, said Wednesday the government is now spending $30 million to help businesses launch or upgrade their online stores.
"COVID has shifted the way we do business and the way consumers consume. And so it's critically important that we, as a province, support our businesses in that shift," Kahlon said.
The Launch Online Grant program initially opened in February with $12 million to give business owners up to $7,500 each. After receiving more than 3,500 applications in six weeks, that money ran out.
The province says the additional money will help about 4,000 more businesses.
Service providers now included
The program has also been expanded to include businesses not only selling goods, but providing services as well.
"Our barbers, our salons, our consultants, our RMTs, our physiotherapists ... these are just a subsection of businesses that are going to benefit of the opening of the grant to service-based businesses," said Nerissa Allen, co-founder of the Black Business Association of B.C.
Horgan, Kahlon and Allen noted the struggles of the past year have disproportionately affected rural businesses, as well as Indigenous and Black-owned businesses. The province has reserved 30 per cent of the grant funding for them.
"I'm hopeful that this funding is not only going to allow for business to recover at a faster rate and pivot to online … but it's also going to help them to mitigate risk in the future," Allen said.
In December, the government again eased requirements for struggling businesses applying for the recovery grants. It expanded eligibility to seasonal and temporarily closed businesses, and reduced the required length of time that a business had to be operating to 18 months from three years.
The province says successful applicants will work with local service providers to complete their online store, meaning the grants help support marketing and technology companies in the province.
"More B.C. small businesses from the hardest hit sectors will have access to the tools they need to boost their online presence, grow their e-commerce capacity and become more resilient,'' Horgan said.