VANCOUVER — New one-time grants are on the way for businesses in British Columbia that were forced to shut down by the latest COVID-19 restrictions.

Ravi Kahlon, the minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, said affected businesses, such as bars, fitness centres and event venues, will be able to apply for a grant ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

“Financial support is on its way and we are committed to helping them through these very difficult times,” he said.

Kahlon said he knows businesses are worried and stressed but the closures are necessary to stem the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant will follow a formula similar to the government’s Circuit Breaker grant in March, he added.

The program is expected to cost $10 million.

Businesses will be able to apply in January with applications accepted until the end of February. The grant can be used to pay for expenses, such as employee wages, rent or utilities.

But there won’t be any additional provincial help for workers.

“Obviously, there’s supports announced by the federal government to provide supports to workers that have been impacted,” Kahlon said. “We came in with the supports to support businesses where there was gaps in the federal announcement.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday the federal government would make changes to the Local Lockdown Program as well as the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit.

With the adjustments, the worker lockdown benefit will apply to workers in regions where provincial or territorial governments have introduced capacity-limiting restrictions of 50 per cent or more. The benefit provides $300 a week to those eligible.

Kahlon said he understands businesses want the money right away, but the grant will take time to administer and the government will work as fast as possible to help.

“We expect that businesses will get the money quite fast if they’re in the system,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2021.

The Canadian Press