My office is still receiving emails and calls from small businesses in University Rosedale who are having difficulty receiving the financial aid they were promised by the Ontario government.
During COVID, the Ontario government promised financial aid to eligible businesses whose revenue suffered as a result of the pandemic. Aid was delivered through the following four main programs:
- The Ontario Small Business Support Grant Program, which provides a series of grants of $10,000 to $20,000 to businesses that lost more than 20% of their revenue.
- The Energy and Property Tax Rebate Program.
- The Digital Main Street Program to help brick and mortar businesses sell online, and the
- Ontario Together program to help some businesses retool their facilities to produce PPE.
Myself and my colleagues have been working hard to ensure businesses get the funding they are eligible for by going to the media, raising the issue in question period, and diligently doing casework to get the ministries to do their job. We have also been organizing to expand the eligibility of the programs in order to help more businesses who are struggling, including new businesses who were not operating in 2019, and businesses within the creative sectors.
In December 2021, the Auditor General released a report on the government's COVID support programs. The Auditor General concluded that, on the whole, the ministries did not design effective and efficient systems and procedures to deliver cost-effective programs to only eligible recipients to support Ontario’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her findings included:
- There was a general lack of scrutiny and oversight with the government’s COVID support programs.
- Around $210 million was paid to 14,500 ineligible recipients of Ontario’s Small Business Support Grant Program. Grant amounts were unreflective of revenue lost. Over 51,000 businesses were paid $939 million but their actual revenue loss was only $225 million.
- The Property Tax and Energy Rebate program was underutilized; only $340 of $905 million was approved and sent to 31,000 businesses.
- The Main Street PPE program was underutilized. There was no basis for setting a $1000 per business maximum, and only 18% of budget was actually paid out, about $11.6 million of $65 million
- The Digital Main Street program worked well, and saved businesses $2.74 million.
This week, my colleague, MPP Catherine Fife and I, questioned ministry staff who are responsible for the delivery of these small business program to share the concerns we've heard so the ministries can improve their work. The issues we raised included:
- We asked Ministry staff when small businesses in our riding were going to receive the money they are eligible for.
- Why some businesses in our riding new about the program, but racialized businesses were less likely to know about the program.
- What the government's plan is to address fraud in future rounds of small business support
You can read the full Hansard right here.