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Business Beat: Navigating the Waters

As an ex-entrepreneur, if there really is such a thing, I lived through some tough times. I understand the angst that is brought on by economic downturns, recessions, and low commodity prices. The absolute despair that can overtake the toughest, savviest and even most successful business owner when there is a crisis, is something that no one who hasn’t signed the front of a paycheque can understand. COVID19 is no exception aside from the fact that it is a global issue which led all levels of government in Canada to step in and provide well intentioned supports.

Prior to writing today, I looked at the Federal Government website, there are 30 financial programs to support small, medium and large businesses in Canada. There are 21 financial programs to support employees, students, the elderly, the disabled and indigenous peoples in Canada. To confuse matters even more, there are a further 30 supports on the Federal website to aid specific sectors i.e. agriculture, fisheries, culture, tourism, air transport, education, and infrastructure. Then another 11 supports to aid the most vulnerable populations, the homeless, seniors, women fleeing violence and the disabled to name a few. These programs are in the billions of dollars and the mechanism to decipher which program your business qualifies for, up until recently, was to wade through all the information; talk about overwhelming!

Next, I looked at the Alberta Government site and found a similar maze of well-intentioned and thoughtful initiatives including deferrals (putting off the liability), loans (instruments that require repayment of all or part of the principle), and freezes (a moratorium on increases). Provincial programs are augmented in Medicine Hat by the City’s very generous $8.2M COVID assistance/stimulus package. The design used by the City is not dissimilar to those found at the Federal and Provincial levels, except in this case, the City even offers a straight up grant under it’s MHBIG Grant program for small and medium size enterprises.

My role at Apex / Community Futures brings me into direct contact with a significant number of business owners and operators in MH. One dominant theme I keep hearing over and over is how confusing it is for a business to avail itself of Federal, Provincial and/or Municipal assistance and there are those, who don’t seem to qualify for any of the supports. One of the most recent supports is the MH BIG Grant it provides small business with the ability to receive between $500 and $15,000 to recoup costs for implementing measures to ensure the safety of your employees and customers. The MHBIG Grant is being administered through Community Futures Entre-Corp and the parameters for qualification have changed over the past four-weeks. If you are a small business with a Medicine Hat business license, check out the Community Futures Entre-Corp website often, to see if you qualify for the MHBIG Grant. In fact, apply for the Grant and an amazing Community Futures Entre-Corp Business Advisor will help you to navigate the waters.

Sandra Milne is the Regional Innovation Network Coordinator for APEX Alberta. APEX Alberta has programs to help support the growth of innovative and technology-oriented businesses in Southeast Alberta. APEX Alberta is a collaborative initiative between three core service providers: Community Futures Entre-Corp, Medicine Hat College and Alberta Innovates. 

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