TORONTO — The travel industry’s frustration with the Ontario Small Business Support Grants continues to grow.
Rosario (Ross) de Gregorio, best known to the industry as the owner of Manditours, reached out to Travelweek after his retail travel operation, Richmond Hill Travel, hit a snag with Ontario Small Business Support Grants process.
First announced by the Ontario government this past spring, the grants provide one-time payments of $10,000 to $20,000. To be eligible, businesses had to have fewer than 100 employees and prove a minimum 20% revenue drop between 2019 and 2020.
Agents have told Travelweek that the application site has been tough to navigate and the process is cumbersome. Many retailers, especially independent travel advisors, report that their applications have been outright denied.
De Gregorio has his own frustrating experience to relate.
“Last week Richmond Hill Travel, a successful applicant for the COVID-19 Small Business Support Grants, received the following message from ReliefFundSystem@ontario.ca: ‘An audit of the program has now been completed. We regret to inform you that, despite your attestation, and after several reviews of your file, it has been determined that your business is not eligible for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. We therefore won’t be sending you a second payment under this program’,” de Gregorio tells Travelweek.
“We called the telephone number listed in this e-mail and asked for an explanation or a reason why we were not eligible to receive the Ontario Small Business Grant and the clerk who answered would not be able to offer any explanations.
“She would just say that there was no appeal to the decision. When asked to refer our call to a supervisor or someone able to provide further information, she replied that there was no such a person and she apologized for our situation.”
De Gregorio says Richmond Hill Travel had successfully applied for the COVID-19 Small Business Support Grants earlier this year, as ‘Retail required to close for in-person shopping (excluding grocery)’ and was approved and received an initial $20,000.
He says subsequently the Ontario government made an announcement that small businesses that were approved for the first $20,000 grant were eligible to receive an additional $20,000 grant to help them stay open and continue their business activities.
“On the basis of this information, Richmond Hill Travel made the financial / commercial decision to stay open and continue with our existing commercial lease,” says de Gregorio.
“We think this is discriminatory and ask for full compensation.”
De Gregorio invites other agency owners in Ontario to contact him if they received the same response.
De Gregorio can be reached at 905-737-6111 or 1-800-566-6608.