Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

B.C. VOTES 2020

Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Nearly half a million mail-in ballots are on their way back to home constituencies for B.C. election final count that’s expected to take until mid-November, but that’s not the end of the wait for people expecting promised B.C. government help to get through the COVID-19 pandemic winter.

Once B.C.’s election results are official, NDP leader John Horgan has to interview MLAs and choose a new cabinet, who then have to be sworn in by B.C. Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin and be briefed on the state of the provincial books. Only then can the cabinet and its treasury board go ahead with relief payments to individuals and businesses, and change any policies that aren’t working.

Horgan acknowledged the day after winning an apparent 55-seat NDP majority that his election promise of $1,000-per-family pandemic payments may not happen before Christmas as he hinted during the campaign. With a formula of pro-rated payments for household incomes up to $175,000, and no federal program to determine need, the $1.4 billion in electronic transfers using provincial income tax records isn’t likely to occur until early 2021.

It was mid-campaign before tourism and other small businesses were allowed to apply for the last segment of the NDP government’s $5 billion COVID-19 relief package, approved in March in a hastily arranged B.C. legislature session with MLAs of all parties supporting it. Some businesses don’t qualify, or are concerned it is too little, too late to keep them going.

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The $300 million small business aid program offers grants from $10,000 to $30,000 for qualifying businesses, with a four-stage application. Businesses have to have been going for at least three years, employ between two and 149 employees at least four months of the year, with payroll documents, tax returns and a regularly updated recovery plan. The grants can’t be used for fixed costs like mortgages or vehicle leases.

The day before the election, the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. (TIABC) advised members they should apply for the program even if they don’t qualify, as it tries to get changes made.

“While the options are being considered, and decisions will be made following the election, government has suggested that businesses complete as much of the application as possible (even if you don’t meet the criteria) to ensure that it is in the system, TIABC said in a bulletin to members Oct. 23. “Further details to come in the next couple of weeks.”

The website for the business recovery grant program indicates it will provide grants up to March 31 or when the allotted funds run out.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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BC politicsCoronavirus