Thanks to almost $400,000 in new funding, a team of ambassadors are now available to assist businesses in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and Thompson-Nicola regions to recover from the impacts of the 2017 wildfires.
These ambassadors can help assess the impact of the wildfires on their operations, and then match their needs to available programs and services, assist with appropriate referrals and application processes, explains Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin general manager Karen Eden.
The new program is funded by $200,000 from Northern Development, $140,000 from the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition and $56,000 from Community Futures Development Corporation.
Eden says as a result of the worst wildfire season in provincial history, many businesses in both regions are struggling to recover, reopen and generate revenue.
Emergency response co-ordinator Sue Lachancen and a team of seven business ambassadors are working from Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) offices, as well as on the road in many communities until Oct. 31 to help businesses access resources to help with wildfire recovery.
While many programs and services already exist or have recently been established to assist with wildfire recovery efforts, accessing these resources can be a daunting and time-consuming task for business owners who are busy managing their day-to-day operations, Eden explains.
Whether you have an agriculture operation that needs some ranch supports, you own a retail store suffering from lack of sales, you have a home-based handyman service or you operate a non-profit group, there is some form of assistance available to apply for – and Eden encourages you to do so.
South Cariboo area ambassador Alisha Piccolo says she also strongly encourages all businesses to apply – but convincing them to do this is not always easy to accomplish.
Most small-to-medium businesses coming out of the wildfire season in 2017 are likely facing challenges that these ambassadors and funding is aimed at finding solutions for, but Piccolo says the first hurdle is to help business people to understand the funding is there whether they accept it or not.
It seems many business owners feel they shouldn’t ask for help, or they won’t qualify – some even worry they might even be taking money away from someone who needs it more – but none of these are valid concerns that should hold anyone back from trying, she explains.
“They are not taking these funds from anybody else. These funds are for everybody – there’s enough for all businesses to apply for this … and we want to see all these funds stay in the community and support these businesses, and help them through this impact.”
Piccolo’s main message to business people is to “stop self-disqualifying themselves before they even give it a shot.”
You won’t know if you qualify unless you apply – and this impact that local businesses are feeling is exactly what these funds are there for, she adds.
“The scary thing that I’m hearing from businesses is ‘we are getting by, we are doing okay’ but they’re saying that with hesitation because they are not [okay] – they feel they are, but they’re still feeling the impact.”
Whatever your business or non-profit operations, Piccolo will help you, right down to the forms on her own laptop that she will bring to your location.
“Don’t delay in contacting me” is another of Piccolo’s key messages, as the program ends on Oct. 31 and all of the other applications also have deadlines – some of them looming.
Local farmers and ranchers may wish to note the deadline is Jan. 31 for the Wildfire Recovery Initiative for agriculture businesses, she explains. Meanwhile, the Phase 2 Red Cross application deadline is coming up on April 6, and various other cutoff dates apply to other relief programs, she adds.
For more information or to request a visit from the South Cariboo business ambassador, call Alisha Piccolo on her cell at 250-302-9405, or e-mail to alisha@cfd ccariboo.com.