Ontario introduces grant for small businesses forced to close amid COVID-19 restrictions

The Ontario government will offer a $10,000 grant to small businesses forced to close due to public health measures.

Eligible businesses include gyms, museums and galleries, tour services and before- and after-school programs.

Businesses that had to slash their capacity in half do not qualify.

The province says eligible businesses that qualified for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and that have been forced to close will be pre-screened for the new grant, and need not apply.

It says qualifying small businesses can expect to receive their payment in February — a timeline NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says is too slow.

The province is also introducing a hydro relief program for businesses and residential customers, providing the off-peak rate 24 hours a day for 21 days, starting on Jan. 18.

It comes as COVID-19 continues to spread at unprecedented rates.

Ontario is reporting 2,472 patients in hospital with COVID-19, including 338 people in intensive care.

That’s up from 2,279 patients hospitalized and 319 in ICUs one day ago, and surpasses the previous peak of 2,360 people in hospital on April 20.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 232 ICU patients are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status, and 106 are fully vaccinated.

Forty-two new deaths were reported, which a spokeswoman for Elliott says occurred over the past 10 days and were added today due to a data clean-up.

The province is reporting 11,899 new COVID-19 cases, but Public Health Ontario says the actual case count is likely higher due to the current testing policy.

Provincial data shows 81.7 per cent of Ontarians aged five and older have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 87.5 per cent have at least one dose.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2022.