The province of Ontario launched a Northern Ontario Recovery Program (NORP) to help small businesses offset the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greg Rickford, Ontario’s minister of energy, northern development and mines, and Indigenous affairs, made the announcement Monday morning via Zoom. He said this funding will help support the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other safety equipment.
“There is no denying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on businesses throughout northern Ontario and this program will deliver targeted funding so they can continue to serve their communities,” Rickford said.
The $20-million program will be providing funds for up to a maximum of $25,000 to small businesses. Rickford said these are small grants, not loans, and are not required to be paid back. Small businesses with more than one location can apply more than once to get the grant.
“Businesses are going to have to change the way they do business, including not just how they reach customers but how they treat customers. Whether that’s physically in their stores, if they’re tourist camp operators, or in their restaurants or factories,” Rickford said. “It’s likely those changes are going to be around for a while.”
This program is administered by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). Small businesses can start applying from Oct. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020.
Some of the qualifying projects to meet the eligibility criteria include the following:
– Renovations and new construction work
– Purchasing new equipments and PPE
– Reorganizing business operation
– Advertising new business initiatives
“The new program will make it easier for more people and businesses to apply and support more projects in rural northern communities,” Rickford said. “The program will target both existing and emerging market opportunities, provide more work opportunities for Indigenous people and address the skilled labour shortage in the north.”
Rickford also announced a new form of the NOHFC program that will be introduced in January 2021.
Rickford said applications for the current NOHFC program streams will be closed as of Sept. 30, 2020 to allow NOHFC to focus exclusively on NORP funding applications.
“In collaboration with northern partners and my fellow northern colleagues, we are developing a streamlined NOHFC program that will make it easier for more people and businesses to apply,” Rickford said.
“[This will] support more projects in rural northern communities; target both existing and emerging market opportunities; provide more opportunities for Indigenous people; address the skilled labour shortage in the north and aid the continued recovery from COVID-19.”
Eric Melillo, Conservative MP in the Kenora riding, said in a press release that the contribution from the province will go a long way in helping northern businesses that were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I won’t stop fighting until the federal government steps up as well,” Melillo said.