Due to public health restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many small business owners in Ontario have been required to reduce their operating hours or shut down completely, putting their businesses under severe financial pressure.
In December 2020, the Government of Ontario announced the launch of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant to help eligible businesses meet operating costs during the ongoing closures. This is the perfect opportunity for small business owners in Ontario to cover any expenses they need to continue operating their business, such as paying employees, managing inventory, or investing in marketing initiatives that keep their brand top of mind with their customers.
What is the Ontario Small Business Support Grant?
The Ontario Small Business Grant provides between $10,000 and $20,000 to Ontario small businesses that experienced decreased revenue due to the provincial shutdown order that came into effect on December 26,2020.
Eligible businesses will receive “dollar for dollar” funding based on their revenue decline, to a maximum of $20,000, which can be allocated however the business owner chooses.
To be eligible, businesses must be able to demonstrate a decline in revenue of at least 20 percent when comparing monthly revenue in April 2019 and April 2020. The Government of Ontario selected this time period because it best reflects the impact on small businesses that the public health measures had in spring 2020.
Seasonal businesses that don’t normally operate in April, or newly established businesses since April 2019 may also qualify for the grant if they meet other eligibility criteria.
You can apply for the Ontario Small Business Grant here. Applications close on March 31st, 2021.
Eligible businesses that successfully apply can expect to receive payment within approximately 10 business days. If an application is submitted with incomplete or incorrect information, or if an application requires further review, there will be a delay in processing.
How to qualify for government grants for small business in Ontario
In order for small business owners in Ontario to be eligible to apply for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, their business must:
- Have been required to close or significantly reduce services as a result of the Ontario-wide shutdown that began on December 26th, 2020
- Be listed as eligible as defined on this list
- Employ less than 100 enterprise-level people as of April 30, 2019, (affiliated enterprises controlled directly or indirectly by the same enterprise, individual, or group of individuals or enterprises must include employees from all affiliates)
- Have experienced a minimum 20% decline in revenue from April 2019 to April 2020, please note:
- Businesses not operating in April 2019 or April 2020, such as seasonal businesses, will have alternate comparator months – please see the online application for details
- Companies affiliated as of December 24, 2020 must include all revenue from affiliated companies when calculating revenue decline, and are only eligible for a maximum of $20,000 under the grant
Please note that applications may be subject to audit and require additional information or supporting documentation to confirm eligibility.
What information do I need to apply for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant?
When you apply for government grants for small business in Ontario, you will need to submit your:
- Legal business name
- CRA business number
- Line of business
- Revenue comparison figures
- Number of employees
- Business banking information including account number, financial institution name, address, number, branch/transit number and account type
You can download the full application guide from the Government of Ontario website to help make the application process easier. If you need help understanding what’s required to apply, speak to your business advisor for assistance and advice.
What can you do with the Government of Ontario grant for small business?
Because every business has different needs, this grant program allows small business owners in Ontario to decide where to allocate the funds where they’re most needed. Some businesses may need to spend the money on lease payments, equipment repair, or inventory maintenance. Others will use the small business funding to maintain payroll.
Many businesses will also recognize that during this unprecedented time, the public may be confused as to which businesses are open and which are not. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in a digital marketing strategy to let people know about any changes to your normal business operations, such as delivery times, product availability, or operating hours.
In fact, with so many people shopping online these days, this is the time to ensure that your online presence is as effective as can be. Put your grant money to work by investing in one or more of these cost-effective digital marketing strategies:
- Keep communicating with customers: Use social media, email updates, and messages on your website to reassure your customers that you’re still there for them, and are sensitive to their safety needs and concerns. Remember to maintain a warm, compassionate tone – your audience will appreciate positivity during these stressful times.
- Go big on social: A recent study showed that 72% of respondents have increased their social media use during COVID-19. Use this opportunity to create a buzz by engaging with people more often, increasing your posting frequency, running a social media contest or special offers, and keeping your customers updated on new developments. Try running a Facebook ad campaign to fuel business growth with relatively little investment.
- Improve the e-commerce experience: Fewer people outside means more people online. That especially goes for e-commerce, which saw a 110.8 percent increase (YOY) as restrictions began to heighten in the spring of 2020. With so many people buying online right now, it’s the perfect time to optimize your online store.
- Create a great user experience on laptop and mobile: Be sure to provide a great user experience on both laptop and mobile with a website redesign that features valuable content and functional API integrations that serve every business and customer need.
- Optimize for search: New customers will use search keywords to find you – or your competitors. Ensure that you rise as high as possible on the search engine results page with an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that helps Google help you succeed.
Investing into your marketing budget, even during COVID-19, is still a crucial aspect of running your business. It will help you maintain meaningful customer, partner, and vendor relationships, keep you ahead of your competitors, and set your business up for success once restrictions are loosened.
If you’re receiving business grant money and need help deploying a digital marketing strategy on a limited budget, give us a call anytime. We’ll develop the perfect solution for your business needs!
Please note that grant information contained within this article is known to be current and correct at the time of publishing. Please visit the Government of Ontario’s website for the most accurate, up-to-date information on COVID-19 support grants.