Businesses affected by Quebec's red-zone lockdown eligible for up to $15,000 in compensation

Quebec business owners affected by the province's 'red-alert' zone will be eligible for emergency financial assistance to keep them afloat during the latest lockdown.

Some business sectors including bars, dining in restaurants, concert halls and movie theatres are being forced to close a second time as cases of COVID-19 continue to jump in parts of the province: the Montreal and Quebec City regions and Chaudiere-Appalaches.

The 28-day lockdown means small and medium-sized businesses in those sectors will be entitled to an 80 per cent reimbursement of most of their fixed costs for the next four weeks, up to a maximum of $15,000.

"If you look at the average fixed expenses... excluding salary... you're about $13,000 so we feel we are hitting the average," said Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon. 

Eligible expenses include commercial rent, municipal and school taxes, mortgage interest, electricity, gas, telecommunications costs, licences and association fees.

The announcement was made by Fitzgibbon Thursday during a daily COVID-19 press conference alongside Premier Francois Legault and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda. 

"Some restaraunt, bars, businesses are facing extinction," Fitzgibbon said. 

Approximately 12,000 businesses would be eligible to take part in the program, at an estimated cost of $100 million to the Quebec government. 

But the opposition says the damage has already been done. The Liberals want to see a specific plan to help the city get back to business. 

"Downtown Montreal is as you said empty... even when companies are open, people don't go, they don't go shopping. It's going to be very hard to get them there anyways. They need to have a specific plan for every region," said Liberal party leader Dominique Anglade. 

According to a Montreal Chamber of Commerce survey, only 20 per cent of downtown office workers are at their desks, despite city measures to lure them back. Approximately 23,000 businesses used the federal rent subsidy announced during the first wave of COVID-19, which was extended to next summer. While Fitzgibbon said there could be more money, he's confident this is enough for businesses to get by. 

"Of course we could double that but it would be a total lack of rigour for us," he said. "It's never enough, right?" 

- With files from The Canadian Press

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