A newly announced short term support program will help regional businesses adapt to safety and public health guidelines imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford made the formal announcement of the Northern Ontario Recovery Program, or NORP for short.
“As the province continues to respond to the ongoing challenge of the global pandemic, our government will continue to support our business owners, entrepreneurs and workers,” said Rickford.
“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.”
The program is valued at $20 million.
Keitha Robson, chief executive officer of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, heralded the announcement.
“The Timmins Chamber welcomes the launch of the Northern Ontario Recovery Program. It is without a doubt that Northern Ontario businesses have been heavily impacted by the pandemic, considering the unique barriers to doing business in the north, and today’s announcement will provide timely and critical assistance,” said Robson.
“During the pandemic, the collaborative efforts formed through the minister’s roundtable proved a formidable force in support of businesses, with tangible outcomes. It is through NORP that our business community will have access to vital support mechanisms that will aid businesses in their continuity and recovery.”
Businesses are able to apply to NORP for financial assistance for such adjustments as building renovations and construction, customer and employee safety installations (plexiglass barriers for example), equipment purchases including personal protective equipment (PPE), marketing initiatives, and restructuring of business operations.
Rickford noted, “This has been a challenging period for many of us, but it is our true northern resiliency that has carried us through and I know that Northern Ontario will return from this crisis stronger than before.
“I commend the businesses across the North who have adapted and overcome the unprecedented challenges of the past seven months.”
The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) will be administering the program.
Applications for NORP can be submitted beginning on Oct. 1, and will be accepted until Dec. 31, 2020. Current NOHFC program streams will close for applicants on Sept. 30, which will allow them to focus exclusively on evaluating and processing NORP applications.
Rickford said essentially, the province is trying to help as many people as possible get through these challenging times.
“Today’s announcement is another example of our government’s commitment to get our northern economy back on track and deliver economic prosperity to hardworking northerners.”
Successful applicants could receive a grant of up to $25,000 to cover approved costs, including those made after March 17 of this year.
Upon the announcement, several stakeholders across the region released statements in support of the new program.
Laurie Marcil, executive director of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, said, “The tourism industry was the first and hardest hit in Northern Ontario and will likely be the slowest to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. The challenge for many tourism businesses in the north has been the financial impacts of pivoting their businesses to respond to the limitations presented by this pandemic. This support is appreciated and will help small business owners across the north cover the added costs of implementing enhanced public safety regulations.”
Those interested in applying for NORP funding can do so through the NOHFC.
Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press