John Farrell, general manger of Community Futures is optimistic about economic recovery and believes business needs are shifting to accommodate the changing circumstances from COVID-19. On May 21, Community Futures along side the City of Prince Rupert’s Economic Development Department announced a business recovery helpline for Prince Rupert entrepreneurs. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Phone-line assistance available for Prince Rupert businesses

Local business needs are shifting, said Farrell

Struggling Prince Rupert businesses will have a new resource at their finger tips to assist in economic recovery efforts, after facing challenges and losses with COVID-19, announced Community Futures and the City of Prince Rupert’s Economic Development Office, on May 21, in a joint partnership initiative.

A new business recovery helpline was launched this week to support businesses as they prepare to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through both access to supports and interest free lending.

“Dozens of Rupert-based companies say the pandemic is to blame for unprecedented revenue declines, cash flow problems and dashed hopes of a summer tourist season that may never arrive. Some small businesses are better off than others, but all are challenged,” a joint press release from Economic Development and Community Futures said.

READ MORE: Feds and Chamber of Commerce team up to support businesses

“As the BC Government looks to slowly reopen public life and business, many entrepreneurs are looking for help in navigating this re-entry.”

Many businesses have found the deluge of information during COVID-19 and funding applications difficult to navigate. The Business Support and Recovery Helpline, is a way to connect business people to resources, up-to-date and accurate information, and ways to finance the costs of re-entry.

Business co-owner of Argosy, Frances Riley, has been operating the local antique store for seven years and is appreciative of the support and guidance that has been offered by the stakeholders during the times of COVID-19. She said her business has taken a hit during COVID-19, however she has accessed many of the local resources to help her business.

“This is a very scary and challenging time,” Riley said. “If you were a sole proprietor or somebody who is not as comfortable with dealing with this type of thing, there is definitely support out there.”

“The more help there is the better. They have been incredibly pro-active – the City, the Chamber, Community Futures, Economic Development. Everybody has been pro-active in reaching out, I found specifically in saying ‘what do you need help with, what are you worried about?”

Riley said that the telephone support line is a good resource for small business owners to be able to access assistance with business recovery.

“As the curve flattens and the economy restarts in a phased-approach we want businesses to come back stronger than before,” Paul Vendittelli, manager of Transportation and Economic Development for the City said.

“That can only happen if they (businesses) are provided with the resources, best practices, and guidance needed to adapt to our rapidly changing economy.”

READ MORE: Trudeau unveils rental assistance for small businesses, loosens loan qualifications

According the press release information on the new Community Futures Emergency Loan Fund will also be available on the helpline for those businesses affected by the public health crisis. A $40,000 no payment, interest-free, loan is available to those entrepreneur’s ineligible for other federal subsidies.

“As the economy opens, the need is shifting from coronavirus information to requests for wage subsidies, consulting rebates, health and safety plans, and interest-free loans,” John Farrell of general manager of Community Futures said.

“Businesses especially in retail are looking to pivot to on-line. Restaurants are looking to switch from eat-in to take-out. Owners want guidance and resources to shift that business model and that’s where our business advisors can also help … from the other end of the phone,” Farrell said.

“The helpline, available at (250) 624 4416, is open weekdays from 9 am to 3 pm. If the line is busy, a call-back can be expected within 24 hours.”

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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