Kingston, Ont. restaurant owner waiting for financial relief

A Kingston, Ont. restaurant owner is concerned after he says he had to reapply for funding that the province said would come no questions asked.

On Jan. 7, the province announced $10,000 in funding would be coming in February to small businesses affected by the latest restrictions, through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant.

In the announcement, the province said businesses who qualified under previous grants, “Will be pre-screened to verify eligibility and will not need to reapply to the program.”

However, Jiffy Grill owner Mohamed Hussain says he was caught off guard when weeks later he was asked to submit information to the government, in order to qualify again.

“Saying that ‘providing we meet the criteria’ and filling an 11-page application, we might be paid out four weeks after that,” Hussain says. “So by my count the beginning of March.”

He says he was also asked to provide bank statements, something he’s never been asked for before. 

Hussain says the sudden change is delaying the money he needs now. 

“We’ve seen minimum-wages increases, rent increases, cost of goods increases,” Hussain says. “The fact that we don’t know we’re going to get the support is a little disheartening.”

In a statement Kwok Wong, spokesperson for the Ministry of Economic Development Job Creation and Trade, says the government is working to prevent fraud.

“We are working to deliver this urgent support to businesses as quickly and responsibly as possible. The government is committed to reviewing lessons learned from delivering past business support grants and has strengthened pre-payment validation and security measures to prevent fraud.”

The ministry says the funding should begin in “early February” for those who qualify.

Ryan Mullough, senior director with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, says he’s concerned some owners may not be aware of the change.

“Business owners need that help as soon as possible, they’ve needed that help throughout the month of January. That money needs to get flowing immediately,” said Mullough.

He says he hopes the government works to contact everyone before the March 11 deadline.

“If something has fallen into a spam filter or a junk filter, it may not be seen, it may be deleted before it’s checked,” Mullough warns. “I would strongly urge the government actually sending that email a couple of times if they see the business hasn’t verified the information.”

Hussain says it’s still unclear to him whether he’s getting the money.

“We’re just tired of mixed messages,” he says.