$ 7.4 million for businesses and workers in the Kenora, Rainy River and Superior North regions

Staff Writer
Natali Trivuncic

The COVID-19 pandemic has set back many businesses causing employers to lay off staff or close entirely.

As a result of this, a new funding was announced on Thursday by Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay, and Marcus Powlowski, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay. The two announced that $7.4 million will go to supporting northwestern Ontario businesses and workers to help them recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative is part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, designed to stabilize the Canadian economy during the pandemic. The funding provided through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) is supporting small and medium-sized businesses across northwestern Ontario. Some of the organizations it supports are the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, Superior Country and Ontario’s Sunset Country Travel Association to bridge the financial gap caused by the pandemic.

One of the Economic Response Plans key programs, the RRRF delivered through the Regional Development Agencies such as FedNor, has previously assisted more that 1,400 clients across Canada. This includes more than 4,800 women-owned or operated businesses and 2,500 tourism businesses across Canada. The RRRF provides financial contributions to help support businesses and organizations with their operating costs where their revenue has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

In northern Ontario alone, the program has assisted more that 777 businesses and organizations including 110 women-owned or operated and 60 indigenous businesses.

Powlowski said the program has been fairly successful in assisting many businesses in northern Ontario that otherwise might be experiencing economic difficulty. The funding provided will help not only businesses continuing operating, but also keep workers employed, which many businesses have not been able to do.

“Part of this funding through the RRRF is to address businesses that weren’t qualifying previously under previous programs, businesses that were falling between the cracks,” Powlowski said.

Powlowski adds that the amount of funding and whether it will be a grant or loan will be determined on a case by case basis.

The funding is available and applications are still being accepted.

As part of the announcement, FedNor is also providing financial support to the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre to create a safe working environment for employees and clients by meeting COVID-19 health regulations. This includes purchasing personal protective equipment to ensure that the centre can continue to operate and provides its services to local businesses.