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Barrie studio owner at risk of shutting down waiting on business grant

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A Barrie woman said she might soon have to close her business for good, waiting for a government grant to arrive.

Wendy Graham was forced to close her dance studio for much of the pandemic, but with rent increasing, she's now running out of options and time.

"I was debt-free, believe it or not, before the pandemic, and now I'm close to $90,000 in debt," Graham said.

Graham has owned Studio House on Bayfield Street in Barrie for five years. More than a business, Graham said it's a community of women supporting one another through dance.

"It's so much fun. It's more fun than I can explain," said Sheralyn Faria, Studio House member.

Graham's been waiting for the $10,000 Ontario Small Business Relief Grant to arrive for more than a month.

"We would've needed it immediately, having no income coming in in January whatsoever without any notice, and it's now April 1, and I've seen nothing," Graham said.

Now more than a month and a half behind on rent, which increased to $3,800 a month in January, she's running out of time.

"Two weeks max; otherwise, I am at risk of being locked out of my company, my business, my livelihood, everything that I've fought for the last two years," Graham said.

Graham said receiving an $80,000 federal loan and $20,000 in previous relief grants, only made a small dent in her debt, being closed for so many months and is wondering why it's taken this long for the latest grant to be approved.

The Ministry of Economic Development Job Creation and Trade told CTV News it thanks all applicants for their patience as it processes a high volume of applications. It said it would notify most applicants of their status in the coming days by email.

Graham said she's been more than patient with the ministry, but is barely hanging on.

"Now it's come down to make or break. This could ruin me if they take their time any further," Graham said.

Her staff and 90 members hope she won't have to close her doors for good.

"It's going to take me nine years to financially recover from the last two when my closures had nothing to do with me, had nothing to do with how I chose to run my business," Graham said.

Graham is also a cancer survivor and has been in remission for three years. She said receiving this grant will go a long way in keeping her business alive, but on a personal level, from preventing her life from falling apart.

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