CALGARY -- New businesses and unregistered sole proprietors can now apply for Alberta's small business relaunch grant.

The provincial government announced in January its plans to expand the small and medium enterprise relaunch grant program, and now businesses can apply for the funding on the government of Alberta’s application portal.

According to officials, new businesses that began operating between March and October 2020 and unregistered sole proprietors are eligible to apply for pandemic funding.

“Even during the pandemic, Alberta saw around 10,000 new businesses open across the province in 2020,” said Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer in a release.  “These new businesses were started by Albertans who had the entrepreneurial spirit and confidence to bet on Alberta.

“Entrepreneurs, whether new or experienced, need to know that Alberta’s government is here to support them.”

The province says the grant will offer financial assistance to businesses, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations with fewer than 500 employees that have faced restrictions or closures due to the COVID-19 public health orders and have experienced pre-pandemic revenue loss of at least 30 per cent.

The funds do not have to be repaid and can be used by businesses as they see fit to relaunch their business, including covering the cost of items that help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, the funds can be used to help businesses build their online presence or e-commerce opportunities.

As of Feb.1, the government has provided more than $327 million to more than 47,000 businesses.

"With restrictions continuing and small businesses struggling, support programs will need to be extended and expanded to avoid widespread business closures across the province,” stated Annie Dormuth, Alberta provincial affairs director, Canadian federation of independent business. 

The program was first launched at the end of June 2020, and the province says it has committed $500 million to the grants.

Application intake will be open until March 31, unless stated otherwise.