Opinion: Helping Main Street reopen safer, rehire faster, and rebuild stronger in Ontario

The Main Street Recovery Plan will assist the province's hardest hit small and main street businesses

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Our government has a plan to help Main Street small businesses reopen safer, rehire faster, and rebuild stronger — and it starts with the new $60-million Main Street Recovery Grant.

As part of our Main Street Recovery Plan, this grant will provide the hardest hit small and main street businesses with a one-time grant of up to $1,000 to help offset the costs of personal protective equipment (PPE). The grant will help defray expenses for businesses in the retail, food and accommodations, and other service sectors with fewer than 10 employees — for things like plexiglass shields, gloves, face coverings, and other items businesses need to protect their employees and customers, while increasing confidence for consumers.

As Ontario’s Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction — and as the proud son of two small business owners — I understand what businesses mean to the people who run them, the communities that sustain them, and an Ontario that needs them.

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Communities depend on small businesses

The reality is, every day, communities across Ontario — from big cities to rural towns — depend on small businesses. Today, those small businesses are depending on all of us. That’s why our government is determined to support them through this recovery period and beyond.

COVID-19 has presented challenges unlike anything Main Street businesses have ever faced. I’ve heard directly from small business owners, their employees, local leaders, and economists during the more than 100 virtual roundtables I’ve hosted since the pandemic began. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from entrepreneurs and family businesses who’ve sacrificed so much to make their dreams a reality — only to face devastating setbacks brought on by COVID-19.

But out of these setbacks, have also come calls from small businesses for us to usher in new lifelines of support and opportunities for growth. That’s why we made temporary changes to rules and regulations to help hardworking families and hard-hit Main Street businesses weather the storm. These temporary, supportive measures, among others, helped bring much needed relief to Main Street during the most uncertain days of a critical time.

There are still great challenges ahead of us

On Wednesday, I introduced the Main Street Recovery Act, 2020 in the Ontario Legislature — to give small businesses the tools and resources to help them recover and bounce back. This bill is part of our wider Main Street Recovery Plan which, if passed, will make some of those temporary changes permanent. For example, this bill proposes to continue Ontario’s overnight truck deliveries to grocery stores and pharmacies. Two previous provincial pilots have shown that it will not only ensure store shelves are stocked with food, medicines and consumer goods, but it also reduces trucks in rush-hour traffic, lowers fuel costs and reduces greenhouse gas and other emissions.

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I’m dedicated to solutions like these that can provide long-term opportunities and support growth — like our government’s commitment to explore options to permanently allow restaurants to continue to include alcohol as part of take-out orders before the existing regulation expires. Restaurants and bars continue to face unprecedented challenges related to COVID-19, and changes like these have made a big difference to them in a time in need.

And in response to the feedback I’ve received in discussions with small business owners from every sector, the Main Street Recovery Plan delivers on their common sense concerns — like cutting red tape, providing mental health support and creating a single website to access all small business government programs. The plan also provides grants of $2,500 for small businesses to build and expand their e-commerce websites, and links Ontario’s 47 Small Business Enterprise Centres into the Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Network for on the ground help.

There are still great challenges ahead of us, but our government is committed to providing the resources and support small businesses need to make it through this — so that Ontario, and Main Street businesses are able to reopen safer, rehire faster, and rebuild stronger than ever before.

Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria is Ontario’s Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.

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