Are Government Business Grants a Myth?

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Published: 07th November 2012
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Since starting The Business Guide To Government Programs, I have received numerous emails and phone calls asking if there are any more government grants for starting or expanding a business. People sometimes state that they have been talking with a government official who told them that there are no government grants anymore. While this is not surprising to hear it is bothersome because it is simply not true. There are government grants available for starting a business.

I could list several examples here but frankly that is the information we reserve for our website subscribers. I will share one excellent grant program with you however, the Self Employment Benefit program offered by Service Canada. Here is a program that will pay you a grant of approximately $425.00 per week while you are preparing your business plan and or operating your business. The grant is payable for a maximum of 52 weeks, 78 weeks if your are disabled.

With programs such as this available, why then are some government officials advising people that there are no grants anymore? There are primarily three reasons:

1) The Specialist - Having been with the Government of Canada for 14 years, I can tell you that bureaucrats are famous or infamous depending upon your perspective, for lacking knowledge of what goes on outside of their own departments/agencies. Often they are not aware of the programs of another division within their own departments. They are not to blame for this however.

Historically, governments have delivered their programs using the specialist model whereby an individual can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about his or her area of expertise but precious little about anything else. There have been attempts at using a generalist service delivery model i.e. government employees who have a working knowledge of many programs but lack expertise in any of them. You have probably heard terms such as the single window approach being used to explain this philosophy. Unfortunately this approach has been slow to catch on and the specialist method of program delivery is still prevalent. Consequently a government employee may advise you that there are no grants available simply because they do not know the difference.

2) Terminology - I hate to state the obvious, but government terminology is confusing. Many government programs provide funding that is non - repayable but are not called grants. There is a legal basis for this however it is beyond the scope of this article. They are sometimes called contribution agreements or some other similar name but the bottom line is they are non - repayable. The next time you are talking with a government employee, do not ask if there are any grants, ask if there are any non repayable contributions available. You may get a different answer.

3) Third Party Delivery - Some government departments finance third party sectoral or community based organizations to administer funding on their behalf. For example:

In British Columbia there is a company called Forestry Innovation Investment Limited. They provide funding for applied research, product development and international marketing activities. This is not a government department or agency. This is a company that was incorporated under the Company Act of British Columbia but guess what? The Province of British Columbia, as represented by the Minister of Forests, is the sole shareholder of the company.

There is nothing deceptive here on the part of the government. I am sure they have their reasons for taking this approach to service delivery. The point is if you ask a government employee if the Ministry of Forests provides funding for product development, you may be told, no and technically that would be correct. Forestry Innovation Investment Limited, which is owned by the Ministry of Forests, does provide funding however and that could be the very funding you need for your venture.

I hope I have helped you realize that your search for government funding involves a lot more than asking a government employee if there are any grants available because depending upon who you talk to and the terminology you use, you may come away misinformed.

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