Small businesses in the Boundary could be receiving as much as $18,500 in flood-relief funding after a provincial announcement Monday morning, the most significant announcement of business relief to date. The announcement comes seven months after catastrophic flooding in May 2018.
The announcement was made in Grand Forks by Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness. Rice announced a provincial partnership with the Red Cross valued at $2.9 million for small business relief.
Approximately 100 businesses in the Boundary were impacted by May’s flooding. Many businesses are struggling to re-open, have decided not to re-open, or have been temporarily or permanently relocated as a result of damage to buildings, especially in the downtown core.
According to the announcement, businesses will will complete an application that would allow them access up to $18,500 relief, though some businesses may be eligible for more, and not every business is guaranteed the full amount.
Details on the application were not immediately available on Monday. Rice and officials from the Red Cross were not able to provide a timeline of when applications will be opening, or how long it will be before businesses will receive their funding, if eligible.
However, Elysia Dempsey, disaster management for the Red Cross, said businesses should be on the lookout for announcements about community information sessions “before Christmas” for help with their applications and for more information.
“It will be dependents on a few factors between how fast people can get applications in to when money will actually be put in accounts, but we are looking at a very expedited process,” Dempsey said. “I just don’t have exact time frames, but we will be in community before Christmas.”
According to the Red Cross’ eligibility requirements online, the program will assist with “uninsured losses, deductibles, minor repairs, clean-up and equipment needs.”
Dempsey encouraged people to include as much information as possible with their applications. The Red Cross said sole proprietor, partnerships and non-profits will all be eligible. In addition, the Red Cross released the following list of eligibility requirements:
- Have 50 employees or less (does not apply to not-for-profit organizations)
- Be located in the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) that was impacted by the 2018 spring floods
- Have been in operation on or before April 26, 2018
- Be financially vulnerable as a result of spring flooding in the RDKB
- Have resumed or are intending to resume operations
- Have a net income of less than $250,000 (calculated as revenue less expenses – does not apply to not-for-profit organizations
- Have the business be their primary source of income –does not apply to not-for-profit organization
The Red Cross was not immediately able to clarify the context of “primary source of income” on Monday.
Rice said the fund will cover a variety of losses, including some revenue loss, as well as capital and infrastructure costs.
“This is a brand new place for us to be as government,” Rice said. “I know that is not reassuring to the businesses here, but for for a government process this is actually quite a speedy [response].”
Businesses that received the initial assistance of $1,500 will still be eligible for this round of funding; if they had not previously applied for that funding, they should apply and will receive both. This application will be different and more specific; not every business will receive the same amount.
Dempsey said that any business impacted will receive funding, though they may not be eligible for the full amount. As much detail as possible will help their application.
“Without the identification of this as a critical problem, we would have seen no action, I appreciate that we have this message clearly to government. This is really going to help us, and part of our first step moving forward is to get our business community healthier,” Mayor Brian Taylor said in his remarks.
Jennifer Wetmore, economic team lead for the Boundary Flood Recovery Team and from Community Futures Boundary, said the $2.9 million announcement was based on a proposal from the flood recovery team.
“We talked to you and talked and talked, it was frustrating at times and this was part of doing our due diligence and giving the red cross and the provincial government the information they needed,” Wetmore said. “That info came from us, it was a projection based on what we heard from all of you across the Boundary.”
In response to questions, Rice said that the province is undertaking a review of its disaster and emergency response, as a result of flooding and fires in the last two years.
“With unprecedented wildfires and floods in 2017 and 2018, we have had to take a deep look at what response and recovery looks like in the province of British Columbia,” she said. “We are working on a recovery framework that we will use for the whole province for all kinds of emergencies, it looks at the Emergency Program Act, the DFA, the criteria the amounts, we are doing a lot of internal work right now to make the system better.”
Downtown Business Association president Amber Esovoloff said that while the amount was “a drop in the bucket” compared to the losses most businesses are facing, she is hopeful following the announcement.
“I am very hopeful that is is going to help the business community and we hope it can all be accessed for those that need it,” she said. “We are still appreciative of everything we can have for help right now.”
Residents can find more information at redcross.ca/gethelp.