Fort Saskatchewan launches program to help small businesses apply for pandemic survival money

·2 min read
Fort Saskatchewan has a launched a new initiative to help business owners access government relief funding during the pandemic.  (City of Fort Saskatchewan/fortsask.ca - image credit)
Fort Saskatchewan has a launched a new initiative to help business owners access government relief funding during the pandemic. (City of Fort Saskatchewan/fortsask.ca - image credit)

Fort Saskatchewan has launched a unique program to help its small businesses survive during the pandemic.

The province and federal government have various programs to help struggling small businesses survive in Alberta during the pandemic. But for many small business owners, navigating the labyrinth application and reporting process to access the lifeline money is a daunting prospect.

The City of Fort Saskatchewan is tackling the problem through a one-year program that provides $1,000 grants to eligible small businesses. The grant is to hire an accountant or another financial professional to help business owners stickhandle the provincial and federal program grant application and the follow-up reporting process.

"It simplifies the application process for them," said Mark Morrissey, the city's director of economic development.

"It gives them some assurances that they are not going to waste their time and get a rejection at the end of the process."

Fort Saskatchewan's Professional Services grant program is modelled after a similar initiative in Leduc last year, which Morrissey said had strong uptake and positive feedback from many businesses.

Launched two weeks ago, Fort Saskatchewan's grant program has not yet approved any grants but applications from four businesses are in the queue to be vetted. And the city already has had calls from owners of businesses ranging from small retail stores to restaurants to hair stylists.

"Primarily, we are seeing those small small businesses that really don't have an accountant on staff or they don't have a bookkeeper on staff," to help wade through the application process, Morrissey said.

The city has set aside $50,000 for the grant program. Morrissey said if that money gets spent in the next month so, his office can go back to council, which approved the grant program earlier this year, and ask for additional funding.

Council has also modified some existing business support programs to increase funding for local small businesses.

Morrissey said the program recognizes the importance to the city of small businesses.

"When times are good, our business community is there for us," Morrissey said. "They are supporting our sporting groups, they're supporting our community events.

"And in their time of need, we need to be there for them."