TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford says that help is on the way for small businesses across Ontario a day after the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) claimed the province’s newly-announced stay-at-home order unfairly benefits big box retailers. 

“I'm doing everything I can to make sure that we get back to normal, get them back on their feet,” Ford said at a news conference Wednesday while confirming that a portal for the government’s long-awaited Small Business Support Grant – which was first announced in December of last year – will be launched on Friday.

“So if you're a small business, please apply, it starts at $10,000 (and) goes as high as $20,000.”

News of the portal’s opening comes after Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the CFIB, penned a news release Tuesday accusing the Ford government of “doubling down on unfair and ineffective restrictions” for small businesses.

“No other province has locked down small retailers while handing huge competitive advantages to big box stores,” Kelly writes.

At issue are the rules for small retailers versus big box stores.

According to the government’s stay-at-home order, effective Thursday, small and medium-sized retailers can only operate between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and cannot provide curbside pickup before or after that time on their own property.

Big box stores like Walmart, Costco and Amazon, on the other hand, can continue to operate with their hours unaffected.

“It was super disappointing. I didn't think that the province could actually make the rules worse, more confusing, more ineffective, more insane. But that's exactly what they did,” Kelly said of the restrictions, while speaking to CP24 Wednesday morning.

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“They now are taking away the small business's ability to sell something outdoors, on their steps at 8:15pm. They're taking away their ability to deliver a good to a consumer at 8:30pm. But it's totally fine for people to line up at Costco and Walmart, to go and buy TVs and T shirts and kids toys. I don't get it.”

"The premier seems intent on killing small and medium-sized businesses, wherever possible," Kelly added.

The new public health restrictions were announced by the government Tuesday amid record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers in the province. Ford said that while his “heart breaks” for affected small businesses, “health trumps that right now.”

“I've said it 1,000 times I'll say it 1,001: support your small businesses, forget about the big box stores. Very simple. Go support your small business,” Ford said.

CFIB data released last month shows that over a third of Ontario businesses will not survive a second lockdown.