The federal government has committed a total of $2.5 million for businesses affected by the Ambassador Bridge blockade that closed the trade corridor between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit for nearly a week in February.
About 240 businesses should be able to apply for non-refundable funds of up to $10,000 each for costs not covered by other federal programs.
Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Irek Kusmierczyk made the announcement Friday morning in Windsor on behalf of Helena Jaczek, minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
“Affected business owners can apply today,” said Kusmierczyk, also a former Windsor city councilor.
“The $10,000 is also the amount that has been offered in Ottawa to businesses…In my conversations with local businesses, particularly around the Huron Church Corridor [in Windsor]we think this amount is going to help a lot of businesses and go a long way to getting them back on track.”
It was announced earlier that the the federal government is channeling $20 million total to Ottawa businesses impacted by three weeks of downtown protests.
Many cities across Canada have been impacted by protests against pandemic mandates.
In Windsor, Huron Church Road, the commercial corridor connecting the bridge to Highway 401, was then closed to non-border traffic. To prevent further protests from breaking out, parts of the road remained closed even after the border post reopened, with the permanent closure lifted on March 12.
In his announcement, Kusmierczyk called the local response to the Windsor blockade a professional and a team effort.
Starting Friday, local businesses can seek compensation for issues they face, such as lost inventory or other non-deferrable costs like employee salaries, utilities, insurance or bank charges.
Officially billed as the West Windsor Small Business Relief Fund, the money will go through local non-profit organization Invest WindsorEssex, which launched a platform for owners to know if they are eligible for funds and to apply.
Here are the government’s eligibility criteria, which prioritize vulnerable small businesses. They must:
- Be located along and adjacent to the Huron Church Road corridor.
- Were unable to operate their business at normal levels during the blockade.
- Have less than 100 employees.
- Intended to provide services to customers in person during demos and were unable to transition to virtual services in the short term.
- Be fully open, operational and providing in-person services at the time of request.
The government said the City of Windsor, Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island worked together on the funding scheme.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said he received a phone call from Jaczek – also a former resident of the area – to relay the news that the funding had been approved.
“I think each of the affected business owners who are eligible to apply should be very grateful today that the federal government is stepping up its support,” Dilkens said.
Companies, leaders call for support
The funding announcement comes as the federal and provincial governments seek reimbursement from businesses that have been impacted by road closures.
The City of Windsor, Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Windsor Essex & Pelee Island wrote a letter to Jaczek asking for supports similar to those offered to Ottawa businesses.
A business owner on Huron Church Road, Fred Bouzide of Fred’s Farm Fresh, previously told CBC News his business lost between $35,000 and $40,000 in sales due to the blockade and road closure. .