In SABA’s Nov. 16 news bulletin, Angela Pollak informed everyone that the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation will be pausing the application intake for the Northern Ontario Recovery Grant program worth $25,000 on Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. to process the overwhelming volume of applications they have gotten in. She encouraged anyone with eligible products to apply as soon as possible, as there was no indication if or when the intake may reopen to applications. She stressed that people could apply on their own but that she was available to help out if necessary. So far, Pollak knows of several businesses that have applied for this grant.
The NOHFC promotes economic growth across Northern Ontario by giving financial assistance to projects that stimulate recovery, growth, job creation and skilled workforce development. They have invested $193 million in 1,386 projects across the region since June 2018, leveraging over $748 million in investment and creating or sustaining nearly 4,000 jobs.
According to John Guerard, the acting executive director of the NOHFC, the NORP has been really successful and consequently the applications have been halted, at least for the time being. The last applications will be accepted by 6 p.m. on Nov. 20. While the application deadline had initially been the end of the year, the huge volume of applications received prompted them to move the deadline forward.
Natalie Dumont, with the communication services branch of the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, says the program has been overwhelmingly successful.
“The NOHFC received over 1,000 applications in the first month of the program. While we have received applications from a wide range of communities, specific data by community is not currently available,” she says.
NORP was launched on Oct. 1 by the provincial government to help support northern companies impacted by COVID-19. Greg Rickford, the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, announced the program on Sept. 28, and pledged his government’s support for business owners, entrepreneurs and workers.
“There’s no denying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on businesses throughout Northern Ontario and that this program will deliver targeted funding so they can continue to serve their communities,” he said at the time of the announcement.
NOHFC has already approved and processed hundreds of NORP applications. Due to this influx, the NOHFC is going to focus on processing the outstanding applications after Nov. 20 to get the funding out to the northern business owners who need it.
“The Ontario government, through the NOHFC, is committed to moving NORP funding along swiftly so we can continue to promote economic recovery in every region of the north and get our northern economy back on track,” said Guerard in his press release.
Guerard also mentioned that new NOHFC programs were coming in January of 2021, making it easier for more businesses to apply and to give them increased support to find market opportunities, address the skilled labour shortage in the north, provide more opportunities for Indigenous people and continue to aid in COVID-19 recovery.
Dustin Turner is the northern development advisor with the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines reminds people that the program offers 100 per cent grant funding up to $25,000 for private for profit businesses only, as not for profits and public sector business are not eligible, to reimburse them for costs incurred while adapting their business operations to adhere to public health guidelines to protect their employees and customers. Eligible costs for reimbursement will be retroactive to March 17, 2020 and businesses are permitted to apply for future costs they may incur.
Pollak is gratified by the response to the NORP grant funding she’s seen from businesses in South Algonquin Township.
“I know of three businesses in South Algonquin who plan to apply. Two of these businesses reached out after the SABA bulletin went out. I also know that Explorers’ Edge picked up the thread about the new deadline and forwarded it to businesses in the area to get the word out to the northern communities in our region on the west side of [Algonquin Park],” she says. ”This is an indication that the SABA bulletin is working from a communication perspective, which I find encouraging.”
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times