Each of York Region’s four Small Business Enterprise Centres will receive new funding to expand the Starter Company Plus program that supports entrepreneurs and small businesses in a bid to provide additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regional Council authorized the ‘repurposing’ of $500,000 from the Innovation Investment Reserve Fund to expand the entrepreneurial training and mentoring program, which provides grant opportunities of up to $5,000 for eligible adults who are starting, buying or expanding a business. The money can also be used to support small businesses through existing municipal Community Improvement Plans.
“As York Region slowly moves towards re-opening its economy, we are still seeing businesses suffer,” says City of Markham Regional Councillor Jim Jones, Chair of Planning and Economic Development. “Offering support beyond what is currently available through senior levels of government will help preserve our economic prosperity.”
Starter Company Plus is managed by Small Business Enterprise Centres in Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Newmarket on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. Between April 2017 and March 2020, the four centres supported more than 800 businesses combined.
Applications for the first cohort of businesses supported using existing Ministry funds will close this month, with the first cohort slated to begin in August. The application process for subsequent cohorts leveraging the additional $500,000 is expected to launch late this summer.
The initiative complements various government support programs. The provincial and federal governments have each launched numerous funding programs in a bid to help businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but small businesses still face significant financial challenges and many are falling through the cracks because of eligibility requirements, the Region says in a report.
Local municipalities have extended payment deadlines and waived late payment penalties on property taxes and water and wastewater charges. In turn, the Region is waiving interest on any portion of property tax instalments due to the Region by local municipalities that are delayed because of their COVID-19 tax relief program and is also retaining 2020 water and wastewater rates at 2019 levels. Municipalities are unable to provide direct financial relief to businesses affected by COVID-19 due to constraints of the Municipal Act, 2001.
York Region is home to more than 54,000 businesses that together employ more than 650,000 people. According to the 2019 Employment and Industry Report, more than 80 per cent of its business community is comprised of small businesses with fewer than 20 employees each. The Region offers resources for businesses, including a toolkit, at www.york.ca/covid19forbusiness.