MONTREAL -- Quebec and Ottawa will be allocating an additional $50 million in funding to small and medium-sized businesses in Montreal in an effort to help them survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During a press conference on Monday, Canada’s Minister of Economic Development Mélanie Joly announced that the federal government will be handing out $30 million of the $50 million.

“This is the biggest investment by the federal economic agency for Montreal in its history,” Joly said.

Quebec is putting forward the other $20 million, in addition to the $40 million it already contributed to help Montreal businesses amid the pandemic. 

“We realize today that in some places, the needs are bigger than the initial sums granted,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s minister of economic development. 

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante echoed Fitzgibbon's statement, pointing out that despite government help, businesses in the city haven’t been able to dig themselves out of the holes the pandemic put them in because they haven’t yet been allowed to reopen. 

“I’m convinced that we’ll continue to work together, the way we know so well how to, to find efficient solutions to these problems,” Plante said. 

PME Montreal will handle the funds and distribute them to elligible businesses as needed. Once those businesses are able to pay back their loans, they will do so to PME rather than the federal government – which the organization can then use for years to come, Joly said. 

“For months, we’ve been battling an invisible enemy,” Joly said. “The economic crisis is impacting, specifically, the ground floors of businesses," in Montreal, the COVID-19 epicentre of both Quebec and Canada. 

Businesses in Montreal’s downtown core will be prioritized, including those in the retail, hospitality and cultural sectors, with $15 million of the funding announced on Monday being reserved specifically for the area. Businesses will be able to receive loans of up to $40,000. 

“We are working with you and for you,” Joly said. 

The Quebec government also announced on Monday additional help for business owners by absorbing more of their rents through the federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses program, which cut rents by 75 per cent for April, May and June. 

Quebec will now pay for 25 per cent of the rent and business owners 12.5 per cent – it was previously the opposite. 

“We’re going to assume 50 per cent of their losses,” Fitzgibbon said, specifying that the move will likely cost the province around $140 million. 

"The work is not yet done, far from it, but I can confirm we're moving in the right direction," he said.