Businesses concerned by delays in Alberta government's assistance rollout

·2 min read
Businesses are pointing out issues with the rollout of a business support program housed in Minister Doug Schweitzer's file.  (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Businesses are pointing out issues with the rollout of a business support program housed in Minister Doug Schweitzer's file. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Alberta businesses say delays in the rollout of government support programs are pushing enterprises to their limits.

The province promised a $350-million boost this spring for a third round of the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant, which makes an extra $10,000 available for businesses that had a 30 per cent revenue drop because of COVID-19.

The third tranche opened mid-April, but some businesses are still waiting to receive the infusion — despite a 14-day estimated time from application to payout.

"I was sad, but now I'm angry because if you can't deliver, don't promise," said Shara Vigeant, the owner of SVPT Fitness & Athletics in Edmonton.

"It doesn't send the message that small businesses are important."

She applied when the program opened and reached out two weeks ago to ask what the delay was. Vigeant says she was told by the government Tuesday that a "system issue" is resulting in payment delays and her funds should be released shortly.

Her rent for the gym is due Monday. If the grant doesn't come by then, she says she'll have to dip into her personal savings account.

"I just wish they'd be a little bit more real with their time frames, rather than give us hope and then rip it away from us," Vigeant said.

Paul Shufelt, the chef and proprietor at Workshop Eatery in Edmonton, wrote on Twitter that his application had complications and it would take 8-10 days to get any more information.

Technical glitch and application errors

A technical glitch that affected Internet Explorer users caused issues for about five per cent of applicants, according to Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer's office.

Other applications that have incorrect or incomplete information may require a manual followup, which can cause delays of up to eight weeks. The minister's office said in the past that 20 per cent of applications have had those errors.

More than $32 million has been approved in grants in the last month and the government has hired 20 additional staff members to address any bottlenecks.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says it has seen an increase in calls from businesses having issues with the third payout of the program.

"What needs to be done is basically putting more additional resources to approving and going through the applications," said Annie Dormuth, the CFIB's Alberta provincial affairs director.

"[Businesses are] just hanging on by a very, very small thread right now."

More than 5,000 applications have been fulfilled since the program reopened, according to the province. During the lifespan of the program, 75 per cent of businesses have received their payments within 10 days, it says.

Application intake for the third round of the program ends May 31.

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