VICTORIA -- The B.C. government is expanding its grant program for businesses moving into online sales by pouring more money into the program and extending it to include the service industry.

Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday that the program would also give special consideration to businesses owned by British Columbians who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC).

The province announced its Launch Online grant program last month with $12 million in grants available for small- and medium-sized businesses in B.C.

On Wednesday, Horgan said that demand for the initial $7,500 grants quickly surpassed the 1,500 grants available.

The province is now adding $30 million to the program, which is designed to help businesses create online shops and improve e-commerce experiences for customers.

The original program was geared towards online retailers selling B.C. goods. The program will now expand to include services such as hair salons, massage therapists, personal trainers and tourism operators.

“This is very, very good news for our hard-hit tourism sector,” Horgan said Wednesday from Victoria. “In my own household there’s an apprehension about online shopping. We like to go into the local businesses in our community, but those local businesses are now going online to keep alive.”

Another change to the program announced by the premier is the expansion of grants that were originally set aside for Indigenous and rural B.C. businesses. The initial program set aside 25 per cent of the grants for Indigenous-owned businesses and businesses outside the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria.

The program will now reserve 30 per cent of its grants for businesses operated by rural, Indigenous and people of colour.

Nerissa Allen, president of the Black Business Association of BC, said Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected minority-owned businesses in B.C.

“With over 400 black businesses in B.C. alone, we’re really happy to see that funds have been carved out and set aside for Black, Indigenous and people of colour business communities,” Allen said.

B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said the new funding “will go a long way to help our businesses adapt.”

The Launch Online grant program is open to B.C.-based businesses that employ fewer than 150 workers.