THUNDER BAY – UPDATED – “Businesses of all sizes have been hit hard by COVID-19, and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund is here for them, protecting thousands of jobs across the country. With the second wave underway, we’ve heard loud and clear that more support is needed. That’s why we’re announcing a top-up to the RRRF to help even more Canadians. Our message to them is clear: we’ve been here for you with significant measures, we’re here for you now and we’ll get through this, together. We’re working with you to support good, local jobs and help our economy come back strong,” says Mélanie Joly, MP Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.
Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan has helped protect millions of jobs, provide emergency support to families and keep businesses afloat as they deal with the impact of COVID-19. A central part of this is the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, which helps support those who may not be eligible for other programs. Since the Fund was launched in May, over 12,000 businesses have been assisted through the RRRF, helping them keep their employees, cover costs, and protect almost 95,000 jobs across Canada.
The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting into what leaders are calling the “Second Wave”. This is putting added stress and strain on the small business sector. Restaurants, hospitality, and transportation sectors are all seeing major drops in business. In Thunder Bay, the Community Economic Development Commission reported this week that the hotel tax levy is down massively.
Local hotel occupancy fell at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to about 10 percent before rebounding to about 40 per cent as Canadians started to travel again in late summer.
Now with the second wave hitting, businesses across the country need more support now.
Melanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, just announced that the Government of Canada will provide an additional $600 million to support workers and businesses through RRRF. This additional investment brings the total RRRF support to over $1.5 billion, helping businesses and organizations weather the impact of COVID-19.
Kenora MP Eric Melillo was optimistic about the announcement, but noted it’s been a long time coming. “I’ve been fighting for months for the government to invest in Northern Ontario businesses, particularly our tourism industry, which has been devastated by this pandemic,” he said. In Question Period on September 29th, MP Melillo noted that while the province of Ontario is investing in Northern Ontario businesses, “FedNor is nowhere to be found.”
“With all the programs created, all the money spent, and all the Liberal MPs across the region, how has this government completely forgotten about Northern Ontario?” Melillo asked.
Minister Joly replied that she would “agree to disagree,” insisting: “We’ve been there for tourism operators, many small business owners, and we’ll continue to be there.” (Tourism operators and small business owners, who Melillo noted have been “pleading for support for months,” would likely agree to disagree with the Minister).
Minister Joly also assured Melillo that the government would be “moving ahead with new investments shortly.”
Four days after the exchange, the government announced it would be spending $600 million to support small and medium-sized businesses, with funds to be delivered through Community Futures Canada and regional development agencies including FedNor.
Melillo says he’s hopeful this funding will have positive impacts on the region: “I wish the Liberals had stepped up earlier, and I’ll be closely monitoring the rollout to make sure the funds are being spent effectively.”
Funding to support regional economies across Canada
The RRRF has been a vital tool, supplementing the existing suite of federal relief measures to address the immediate needs of Canadians during the pandemic. Canada’s Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) will deliver the RRRF in their regions. Working closely with businesses and innovators in their communities, RDAs are key to delivering targeted support to Canadians where it’s needed most.
The additional funds announced today will continue to be administered by the RDAs. Part of that funding will also be distributed by the RDAs to Community Futures (CF) organizations in order to target businesses and organizations in rural communities across the country.
- RDAs will deliver $455.7 million to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and organizations facing financial pressure
- Another $144.3 million is to provide rural businesses and communities with access to capital and technical support, and will be delivered by Community Futures Development Corporations across the country.
- This relief is in addition to $962 million previously announced to establish the RRRF. These funds have assisted over 12,000 SMEs challenged by liquidity issues due to the pandemic.
- RRRF complements other federal relief measures and COVID-19 supports provided by other levels of government.