KITCHENER -- The mayors of Stratford and St. Marys, and the Perth County Warden,are asking the provincial government to include bed-and-breakfast establishments, inns, and small hotels in their COVID-19 relief plan.

Currently, many of the businesses do not meet the criteria set out for government aid, and are ineligible for funding under the Ontario Small Business Support Grant.

Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson says this type of business is crucial to the local economy.

“We are not going to get back to having a million or a million and a half visitors a year without a strong and diverse accommodations sector,” said Mathieson.

"Some are struggling with the decision whether or not to open this summer, are they better off sitting out another year, and then there is the economic challenge that goes with it; can I continue to pay the property tax on a larger home and large inn that I would normally have that if I was welcoming guests this year?"

The president of Stratford’s Bed and Breakfast Association says some operators have been forced to close and sell.

“Several are on the market at the moment, several have had to permanently close as has several in the downtown core,” said R.L Stephenson-Read.

According to Stephenson-Read, these businesses are looking at a 90 per cent drop in traffic this summer, even with the planned limited return of the Stratford Festival.

“We are looking at pretty much a non-existent business in terms of the tourist coming in.”

The deadline for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant is March 31. Business owners and local political leaders are asking Queens Park to change the criteria prior to that date.