Today is the last day to apply to the Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant.
This week, I spoke in the legislature about the many gaps in this program. My office has received messages from business owners in Toronto-St. Paul’s who, despite having received the previous rounds of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, were deemed ineligible for this new grant. They were taken by surprise, as the Ford government had promised to support businesses after implementing restrictions at the end of 2021 to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. But, instead of expanding the financial support to all businesses affected by these restrictions, the Ford government presented a program with new eligibility limitations.
Other businesses that were approved have not yet received the financial support, after more than a month of wait. When asking about a timeline, they were just told to wait some more. There were also technical issues, with folks not receiving a confirmation email after submitting their application and others not being able to return to their unfinished application.
While inquiring about a constituent’s application to the COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant staff, my office was told that the “new Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant is a discretionary and non-entitlement program” and that a “decision to not provide payment to an ineligible business is final.” They highlighted that there is no appeal process.
The questions here is ‘at whose discretion’?! Where is the accountability and transparency of this process? Decisions are made behind closed doors and there is no room for questions. I did not think it could get any worse than the earlier messy rounds of the Small Business Support Grant, but the Ford government does not fail to surprise.
On another note, I put forth a motion this week asking the Ontario government to amend the Hairstyling Program Standard to mandate culturally responsive training to Black and textured hair while also embedding it within the Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry. We need equitable and inclusive hair care on set to ensure BIPOC performers with natural and textured hair also have access to high quality services.
Moreover, in recognition of March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Ontario NDP Black Caucus will host a one-day symposium focused on health, education, jobs and the economy on Thursday, March 17. Panelists are a selection of Black community leaders that have done exceptional work in calling out bad policy and continuing to push for equity in their respective sectors. The event will happen between 10 am and 4 pm. RSVP to the email [email protected], and a zoom link will be shared.
Finally, thank you to the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO)’s Black Nurses Task Force for an incredible meeting this week. We spoke about harassment and violence against Black nurses and frontline healthcare workers. Anti-Black racism in the health sector (and in all sectors for that matter) must be stopped. Your strength and HEARTwork is seen and so appreciated!