Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré and Economic Partners General Manager Neil Fox were instrumental in local businesses surviving the pandemic. (Photo taken in 2018. Photo supplied.)
The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) was created to ensure direct support would be available for small and medium businesses.
Early on in the pandemic Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré heard the concerns of businesses in his riding. They said they were falling through the cracks; that they didn’t qualify for the original loans created by the government.
“What we did in the Northern Ontario Caucus is we set up a meeting with FedNor Minister, Mélanie Joly. We looked at this issue with other MP’s across the Country and quickly realized we needed to set up another program,” said Serré. The RRRF provides financial support (interest-free loans) to help support the fixed operating costs of businesses that have had their revenues affected by COVID-19.
The funds are issued by regional development agencies, such as Economic Partners Sudbury East – West Nipissing.
“FedNor is in a great place to help businesses and organizations. That’s why we channelled the money through Economic Partners in West Nipissing. The original allocation was around $685,000 to help businesses in the West Nipissing area. We quickly realized that with tourism, and other businesses in the area that didn’t qualify originally the money wasn’t enough. I went directly back to the Minister’s office and said West Nipissing needs additional dollars. We have many businesses that don’t qualify for the original CEBA (The Canadian Emergency Bank Account) through the banks. We were able to bump up the allocation to $1.2M to help out businesses in the area. These are businesses in West Nipissing, Saint Charles, French River.”
Serré ads that Economic Partners is at the ground level with businesses, and they were able to directly hear the concerns of our local businesses.
“By them providing us feedback, providing the information, we were able to get those additional dollars to support local businesses during this pandemic. It’s crucial. We need jobs in Northern Ontario. We need to make sure our existing businesses could get through the Pandemic. Now we look at the future and look at how to best address economic recovery.” said Serré
Neil Fox, Economic Partners Sudbury East West Nipissing Inc. General Manager, says he had run out of the original $685,000 in funding in just 9 days.
“The Canadian Emergency Bank Account was created with certain eligibility criteria. The regional development agencies were given money to implement this, and they reduced and lowered eligibility criteria to make sure all businesses had access to it. They had to be in business march 1st, 2020, and had to be able to show how the global pandemic impacted your business and your revenue stream.” he said.
Fox adds that sole proprietors weren’t eligible under CEBA, but were eligible under their program.
“The businesses needed help. When a small business’s revenue stream gets halted; anything service industry… hairdressers, restaurants take your pick. The revenue stream ends. The fixed costs do not. There’s still mortgage, lease, liability insurance, and you still need to maintain your business. It’s a business model that doesn’t work. This was intended to help tie people over that hump.” said Fox.
Fox says one of the things that’s great about his organization is to be able to help people in various ways.
“Initially when we first received our allocation – we clearly indicated to FedNor that this was not going to fulfill the demand that was required. Before we spent our first dollar we raised flags. Especially through Marc’s office. Marc was diligent in his pursuit of us receiving additional funding. As always.” he adds.
“A lot of businesses that contacted my office I directed to go to Economic Partners,” said Serré “A lot of them had already applied. So when the money did come in, it was absorbed. Not every area in the country got additional dollars, and I’m happy I was able to get some more for our area. When we look at businesses for traditional loans, that’s when Economic Partners have been active players. I’m pleased that the government stepped up to support our businesses. We have to keep our youth in the north. We have to keep jobs in the North. We need to do everything we can to have employment to keep our population, keep our youth, and keep our families in West Nipissing and in Northern Ontario.”