Help is on the way for Montreal businesses affected by construction.

On Wednesday, Mayor Valerie Plante announced a plan to reimburse storeowners up to $30,000 per year while construction work is done in front of their stores. 

“It's a very positive and strong move to tell merchants, ‘We want you to stay alive,’” she said, in front of a business on St. Denis St., an area that has seen dozens of businesses close up in recent years because of the effects of construction. “(We want you) to keep your business up while we do infrastructure work which will benefit you in the long term.”

The funding is available for projects that last a minimum of six months, and up to 36 months for STM-related projects, and is retroactive to 2016.

Previous administrations did not have the power to offer this kind of financial support: the province only gave Montreal the authority to do this in September 2017 when it passed Bill 121.

The Quebec Council for Retail Merchants, which represents Quebec retailers, is calling the announcement a major victory in their fight to have business owners compensated for losses caused by construction work.

“For once, retail is integrated within an economical framework and that to us is an important step forward,” said spokesperson Marc Gauthier,

Some businesses, however, say that the help is coming too late.  

For the past 37 years, Elio Schiavi has owned Ferrari, a restaurant on Bishop Street.

In the first year of construction work on the street, he said he’s lost $80,000.    

Schiavi is taking the city to court over his losses.

“Finally someone does something, but for me in my case, it's not enough,” he said. “My loss is much more.”

While the easy solution would have been to lower taxes for the merchants, the mayor says it’s not that simple.

“We need to talk to our partners, Quebec needs to be part of it,” Plante said. “There's a political will to give us other options in terms of financing the services we have in town.”