A lease sign hangs in the window as a cyclist walks past a commercial store Monday August 31, 2020 in Ottawa. The federal government is adding $600 million to a fund to help small- and medium-sized businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Feds top up relief fund with $600M to help small, medium businesses

Money has also gone to startup companies that need investment to stay afloat

The federal government is adding $600 million to a fund to help small- and medium-sized businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure announced today by Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly brings total support through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to more than $1.5 billion.

The government says the fund has already helped more than 12,000 businesses struggling because of the pandemic, which has hit everything from main street boutiques to hotels and restaurants.

The relief and recovery fund, administered through federal regional development agencies, is intended to help enterprises that might not be eligible for other pandemic-related assistance.

Of the new money, almost $456 million will go to small- and medium-sized operations facing financial pressure to help them keep employees and cover costs.

Another $144 million will provide rural businesses and communities with access to capital and technical support, and will be delivered by community futures development corporations across the country.

“What we’ve learned is that in certain hard-hit sectors, it was more difficult for businesses to have access to capital through financial institutions, and that’s why they came up to us,” Joly said in an interview.

For instance, in northern Ontario, half of the businesses supported to date are in the tourism sector, she said.

“We’re seeing that all over Canada.”

Money has also gone to startup companies that need investment to stay afloat, she added.

“That was key, because we need to keep our innovation and our competitive edge, notwithstanding the pandemic.”

Joly said she’s also aware that major downtown cores are “really going through difficult times right now, and we’re looking at solutions.”

The minister said she spoke with chambers of commerce in several big cities this week to see what the government can do to help.

The Canadian Press

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