The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) is providing $11.7 million in support for small businesses and community organizations to help those feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CBT said it is providing small businesses with an opportunity to apply for low-interest loans, the new Small Business Working Capital Loan, in order to get immediate assistance or to plan for the future recovery of their business.
“For each application that comes in, we will respond to it right away, we won’t wait for say, two weeks,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President and CEO of Columbia Basin Trust. “Different service industries where they don’t have the ability to have one, two, three or more weeks of an outage without it causing significant financial distress, this program is meant to support just that type of business.”
More: Small Business Working Capital Loan (Columbia Basin Trust)
The Trust has also waived Basin RevUp fees, increased support through its Impact Investment Fund, increased available resources through Training Fee Support and Basin Business Advisor and offered a higher wage subsidy through Summer Works and the Career Internship Program.
Programs have also been put in place to help out vulnerable populations, through the support of community organizations that directly aid them. The Trust said funding will be provided for services such as child care, housing societies, Indigenous communities, hospices and Métis associations.
“Columbia Basin Trust has actually reached out to more than 250 of those organizations in the region. We’ve made those calls directly to let them know about the kind of support we have available. In fact, we have already entered into agreements with many of those agencies that can start providing services right away,” said Strilaeff.
The funding for community agencies covers a broad variety of needs, such as workplace adaptation to allow people to work from home effectively, renovations to make spaces safer for COVID-19 service delivery requirements with hand washing stations, plexiglass shields, a secondary entrance or other modifications that may be needed. Organizations that require assistance are encouraged to visit the CBT website.
Strilaeff said he has seen a strong response to the new programs, as many people in the region have felt the financial impacts of businesses closing and residents being left out of work.
“We are pleased that we’re making these supports available, but it is also with some mixed emotions. It really goes to show how significant the needs are, that the response has been so strong,” said Strilaeff. “It’s important that the Trust look at other ways we can support our communities in the coming weeks and months. I suspect there will be more announcements as we learn about the breadth of the impact of COVID-19.”
According to Strilaeff, the Trust is working closely with the provincial and federal governments to understand what kinds of supports they are putting in place, and addressing potential gaps in the region.
“Not only will this increased funding support business and community organizations to address COVID-19 impacts, each dollar is invested in our region and will provide broader economic development benefits,” said Strilaeff. “During this most difficult time, I encourage everyone to follow public health recommendations and to be kind, compassionate and supportive of one another.”
Strilaeff added that the Trust is still working to provide its services, but its staff are from home.
*** Story by Ryley McCormack ***