Our government took immediate and dramatic action to protect Albertans and our healthcare system in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19. Business owners have spent the bulk of 2020 shouldering an unimaginable burden, and we recognize that recently introduced public health measures may add to that load. This is why we massively expanded the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant (SMERG). This financial support is essential to help Alberta businesses survive the second wave of COVID-19, as they are a key factor in Alberta’s economic recovery.
Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant (SMERG)
SMERG was introduced on June 29 as we began to relaunch our economy. That support helped many businesses reopen, and now that we are in the second wave, we are continuing to provide support to Alberta businesses. In response to the recent public health measures, we have increased the grant amount from a maximum of $5,000 to $20,000, tripling the available funding in the second payment. We have also lowered the eligibility threshold for the grant from a 40% to a 30% revenue reduction in April and May of 2020, compared to the same time in 2019.
The changes to SMERG ensures we can provide direct funding into the hands of more Alberta businesses in need. If you are a small or medium-sized business owner, I urge you to review the program and apply if you are eligible. This funding is available to assist during these difficult times so that your businesses can remain open and working to help Alberta’s economic recovery, especially as the circumstances continue to shift. There are no strings attached, you can use the funding for whatever you need.
In the first round of SMERG, we had over 17,000 businesses qualify for the grant, totalling around $65 million in direct support for small businesses. By lowering the eligibility threshold, we estimate that another 15,000 businesses will qualify for this funding. This amounts to $500 million in supports for small and medium-sized businesses in Alberta. When we combine this funding with other provincial supports offered over the past 10 months, total COVID direct relief from the province to businesses is over $1 billion.
Additional supports for businesses are available through the federal government.
How can you support small businesses?
We enhanced SMERG because this support is essential to help Alberta businesses survive the second wave of COVID-19. However, we know that businesses cannot rely on government support alone.
As Albertans, we are in this together. Small businesses in Alberta employ hundreds of thousands of Albertans and are always active members within their communities. Small and medium-sized businesses make up 99.8% of Alberta businesses.
I am calling on Albertans to support your local small businesses. They are essential to the fabric of our communities. How many small businesses provide support to local organizations, community sports teams and so many other causes? For years, they have always been there when their neighbours called. Now, they are asking for our support in return. We must support our local businesses however we can. Order take out, curbside pickup, or shop in-store off-peak hours. Also, I ask that you be patient with businesses as they work to adapt to the increased restrictions.
Small businesses are the beating heart of our economy and one of the main reasons that Alberta is seen as Canada’s economic engine. Each day these businesses are contributing to Alberta’s economic recovery by providing good jobs to their communities. I am proud to stand by these job creators and provide support to help see them through this crisis. Please, join me in supporting your local businesses.