BOYLE – When the Boyle Chamber of Commerce met through video conferencing May 14, small business funding opportunities were featured prominently on the agenda.
The first funding they heard about was from Great West Newspapers – the parent company to the Athabasca Advocate, Barrhead Leader, Westlock News and many other newspapers across Alberta – who launched a Community Marketing Fund that same day.
The $1 Million marketing fund was designed to assist locally-owned businesses with print or digital advertising during the pandemic. Businesses can get more information by contacting the Advocate, Leader or News offices.
Stephanie Bergmann, the community general manager for CIBC in Athabasca, spoke to the chamber about existing and new funding for small businesses.
Bergmann noted that CIBC is encouraging businesses to take part in the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) which is a loan of up to $40,000 for businesses with an annual payroll between $20,000 and $1.5 million, excluding dividend income.
“We're telling all clients to take it that can take it,” she said. “I think that they were expecting COVID to only last a few months and now they're forecasting this will probably be until December or January and that it's going to keep on affecting businesses.”
She also reminded members of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy of 75 per cent of employee wages to help employers keep and rehire staff.
“(It’s) a subsidy of 75 per cent of employee wages for up to 12 weeks retroactive from March 15 to June 6, and the program is administered by the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency),” Bergmann stated.
Bergmann then explained the co-lending program that came out recently through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) as well as the loan guarantee program through Export Development Canada (EDC).
The co-lending program offers incremental credit amounts up to $6.25 million, 80 per cent of which would be provided by BDC, with the remaining 20 per cent from the business’s financial institution.
“It's there to buy a new truck or buy equipment for your company. It’s there for operational cash flow needs,” Bergmann said. “The first 12 months have the option of interest only or principal plus interest and then thereafter it's a variable rate, and principal plus interest payment type.”
The EDC Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) Guarantee is a loan guarantee, where EDC guarantees 80 per cent of a loan and your financial institution the remaining 20 per cent, up to $6.25 million.
“Then we have an EDC loan guarantee so, it's up to $6,250,000 and 80 per cent is guaranteed by EDC to be repaid within one year; term loan or line of credit,” Bergmann explained. “And what this for is payroll and operating costs; expenses resulting from COVID. Eligible people (are) new or existing clients, domestic business, export, commercial banking, that sort of thing, but that's only 12 months.”
Chamber secretary Karen Keyes presented a report on a crowdfunding webinar put on by ATB.
Keyes noted that ATB has lifted the fees and funding restrictions on their BoostR program in response to the pandemic.
“If you did not meet your goal you received zero amount of the money – now you keep whatever you raise,” Keyes said. “The catch is though is that it will require imagination and hard work on your part.”
Keyes added that the two business owners who presented during the webinar stressed it was a lot of work with daily social media posts, making videos, taking photos and updates on progress.
“Despite the hard work this seems to be an effective way to raise capital, buy something, stay afloat, promote new products, validate and test your business viability, or anything else you need finances or exposure for,” she stated.
Interim Tourism and Economic Development (TED) officer Luke Pantin also informed the Chamber members about a regional relief and recovery fund announced May 13.
“So, what happened is (May 13) the federal government announced what they call the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund,” Pantin said. “It's for small businesses and everything is going to be processed through Community Futures Tawatinaw.”
Similar to CEBA, if the borrower pays back 75 per cent of the loan by Dec. 31, 2022 the remainder will be forgiven.
“They basically will cover operating expenses for the business, payroll, and other non-deferrable expenses such as rent and utilities and that sort of thing,” Pantin explained. “Anything that's critical to sustain business continuity, and that also includes operational inputs, such as raw materials for whatever that business produces.”
The last bit of information the Chamber got was the results of the questionnaire polling Chamber members.
The first question identified the type of industry which ranged from retail, financial, service, agriculture, municipal, tourism and marketing and media to manufacturing with 27 out of 33 businesses taking part.
Of those businesses it was revealed there are 296 full time and 66 part time staff and nine people were laid off either just before or due to the pandemic revealing that the layoff rate is 2.5 per cent for Boyle.
“The next question was retaining employees and an estimated 55 per cent of the members had reduced their hours,” explained chamber vice president Ellen Knowles. “And then there was a couple of job sharing and whatnot, but most of it was reduced hours.”
The questionnaire also noted that all businesses contacted were aware of the government funds and 12 businesses had applied with seven of them approved at the time of the poll.
“I want to commend you for doing this,” remarked Pantin. “This is exceptional. In fact, I have to commend the entire small team that's been behind the transformation of the Boyle chamber the last month or so. This is phenomenal work that you've done; I didn't expect you to have been able to achieve all of this in such a short span of time.”
The questionnaire information will also be used by the Athabasca Region COVID-19 Economic Recovery and Resilience Task Force scheduled to start May 21.
Heather Stocking, TownandCountryToday.com
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