Additional $34 million available to northern businesses affected by pandemic

Starting today, Nunavut businesses can apply for grants through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund

Nunavut businesses can now apply for financial support through a new CanNor fund called the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. CanNor, which is based in Iqaluit, received $34.3 million to distribute to businesses across all three territories. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

Starting today, Nunavut businesses will be able to apply for money through a new fund from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced an additional $34.3 million for small- and medium-sized businesses in the three territories that have been affected by COVID-19.

The $34 million for the territories is part of a $962-million Regional Relief and Recovery Fund for business announced by the federal government last month.

Businesses in Nunavut can apply for the funding through CanNor, which is based in Iqaluit.

The funding will provide non-repayable grants to businesses in the territories affected by COVID-19 closures or restrictions, Mélanie Joly, the minister responsible for CanNor, told Nunatsiaq News. For the other five economic development agencies, the fund is being offered though interest-free and low-interest loans.

“It is the only regional development agency that will be able to do that. We know the North is hard hit and we know the price of goods is extremely high. So we want to be there to help,” Joly said.

The new funding builds on the $15-million Northern Business Relief Fund launched by the federal government on April 20.

The RRRF is “first come, first serve,” Joly said.

Like the Northern Business Relief Fund, this additional funding is intended for small- and medium-sized businesses, Joly said. It is also suited to businesses that could not access the Canada Emergency Business Account, a federal loan program through banks, or did not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

While priority for funding through the NBRF was given to businesses with fewer than 20 employees, the RRRF is open to all Nunavut businesses with 100 employees or fewer.

The RRRF will also allow CanNor to support non-profit organizations that “play a key role in the Northern business ecosystem,” according to CanNor’s website.

“We will be more flexible, adapting to the reality of the North and of Nunavut, which is sometimes not always the case when banks look at the reality of a given company,” Joly said.

“Our entrepreneurs are in a race to survive.”

Joly said she believes the funding is well-timed for businesses as some some look toward eventually reopening and will have to ensure their operations meet public health guidelines.

“We’re seeing businesses are still trying to reach out to their banks and sometimes they don’t always have a positive answer. So as we’re talking about restarting and as businesses need to adapt their business models to their new reality of reopening after a lockdown, they will need funds,” Joly said.

Joly said the best way to find out whether a business or organization qualifies for the RRRF is to contact CanNor.

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