Manitoba's Premier announced on Tuesday more financial support for businesses. Brian Pallister says the new Manitoba Bridge Grant will provide $5,000 upfront to businesses, not-for-profits and charities directly impacted by the restrictions under the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System.

“Our priority since the beginning of the pandemic has been to protect Manitobans, and our current focus is to do so by getting COVID-19 under control and limiting the community spread of this deadly virus,” says Pallister. “We recognize that Manitoba businesses, not-for-profits and charities have made and continue to make sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our province. We want to help them make it through this critical time in our fight against COVID-19 and bridge to the future by providing relief from the financial challenges created by public health orders.”

The Manitoba Bridge Grant will provide an immediate one-time payment of $5,000 to small and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profit and charitable organizations that were directly ordered to temporarily cease operations or close their publicly accessible physical locations by Manitoba COVID-19 public-health orders in effect on November 12. This includes restaurants, bars, beverage rooms, brewpubs, microbreweries, distilleries, casinos, recreation and sport facilities, museums and galleries, theatres and concert halls, as well as organizations like charities, not-for-profits and faith-based organizations that have been adversely impacted.

The premier notes the province is able to shift $100 million from other programs that have run their course as new needs emerge based on the latest restrictions and the province will seek supplemental funding if more funding is required.

“Organizations required to close have identified an urgent need for financial support as they lose revenue and struggle to make rent payments, avoid staff layoffs, find new ways to safely offer services and pay for products they ordered prior to the mandated restrictions and closures,” says Pallister. “We are building upon the generous support system we’ve created to offer Manitobans the right program at the right time. Right now, the most important thing we can do to help our small businesses is to reduce our COVID-19 cases.”

The Manitoba Bridge Grant has the capacity to be extended automatically January 1, 2021, to provide an additional $5,000 to each organization should these public health orders remain in place. If required, the province would automatically process the second payment at that time with no further actions required from applicants. A January payment would increase the program total up to $200 million for impacted businesses.

In May, the province launched the Manitoba Gap Protection Program to provide $6,000 to businesses that fell into gaps in qualifying federal support programs. The program has paid out approximately $60 million to 9,800 businesses in Manitoba. Intake is now closed and the province continues to review and process the applications it received. Pallister announced the program has been converted from a forgivable loan to a grant, meaning recipients no longer have to repay the province if they received federal COVID support. This will free Manitoba businesses that received this grant to apply for the wide range of federal support programs currently available including the federal wage supports and commercial rent assist programs.

In the spring, the province also announced three wage subsidy programs and is currently reviewing applications worth an estimated $46 million. The Back to Work This Summer and Summer Student Recovery Jobs programs concluded in September, while the Back to Work in Manitoba Wage Subsidy Program has an application deadline of Dec. 1. The province will now begin providing immediate, early cash advances to employers that have applied for the Back to Work in Manitoba program for $1,500 per worker hired, and expects approximately $15 million of immediate cash-flow supports to start to flow into the hands of existing applicants within the next two weeks. Applications received between now and Dec. 1 will continue to be processed.

Pallister says the province is asking business groups for input on long-term recovery funding to encourage the long-term sustainability and adaptation of Manitoba businesses coming out of COVID-19. He invited organizations such as the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Winnipeg to provide a detailed plan to the government in January and committed to initial supporting funds of up to $50 million.

The new Manitoba Bridge Grant application portal will be live Monday, November 16 online. The deadline for applications is December 15.