VICTORIA -- The British Columbia government is extending its grant program for small- and medium-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and lowering the threshold for businesses to apply.

The application deadline for the business recovery grants was set to close on March 31, but the province announced Thursday it will now accept applications until Aug. 31.

To be eligible for the relief funding, businesses were previously required to demonstrate a 70 per cent revenue loss at any point between March and April of last year.

Under the new rules, that threshold has been lowered to include businesses that lost just 30 per cent of revenue for any month between March 2020 and the month the application is submitted.

The $345-million Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant program is open to businesses that employ up to 149 B.C. residents.

Grants of between $10,000 and a maximum of $30,000 are available to these business owners, with an additional $5,000 to $15,000 available to tourism-related businesses.

“We continue to listen to B.C. businesses about what they need to navigate through the second wave of this pandemic and position themselves for a strong recovery,” said B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon in a statement Thursday.

“This funding has been set aside for businesses to help them rebuild, keep people employed and support B.C.’s economic recovery,” he added.

Walt Judas, the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC, applauded the change, saying, “this is the type of response that will help businesses get through these difficult times.”

To qualify for the recovery grant, a business must develop and submit a business recovery plan as part of the application process.