As expected after the evacuation, businesses have been re-starting slowly. Many are sure to have fears of how they could survive from the three weeks of lost of revenue, while still facing bills that need to be paid.
The Yellowknife Book Cellar is one of them.
Jennifer Baerg Steyn, the store’s owner, has been struggling to keep her business afloat after being evacuated. She and her partner have been relying on a GoFundMe campaign set up by their friends to cover the operating costs of their store, which include rent, salaries, and other expenses. The campaign has raised around $8,000 of the $22,390 goal as of press time.
Baerg Steyn said she is grateful for the support, but knows that she is not the only one facing hardship.
“We’re very mindful that we are not unique in this struggle. It’s everybody,” she said.
She feels that the territorial government should stepping up with more financial assistance for the small businesses affected by the evacuation.
She said the $5,000 Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) Grant from the GNWT and the $5,000 grant from BDIC were not enough to cover one month’s rent for her store.
“I get that money doesn’t grow on trees. But at the same time, I struggle with the fact that during Covid-19, there was such a willingness to provide financial support when many businesses in some way could possibly have some kind of an income,” she said. “But every business here had no opportunity for an income. And yet the money coming to us is really small.”
Baerg Steyn said she was paying her and her partner’s hotel fees from their own pocket, even though there were vouchers was available to them. They had insurance to cover their personal expenses, but not their business losses.
“There were people who may not have (had) a car to travel, or they were struggling where to live, so we just left the space for the people who really in need,” she said.
How often does Baerg Steyn look at the GoFundMe page? As little as possible, she said.
“I don’t look at the page, I have no idea what’s going on. I would have been happy if we raised $50 or if we hit our goal. I just emotionally can’t deal with it,” she said.
Baerg Steyn said she wants to express her gratitude for the work been done by the volunteers and the firefighters who helped protect Yellowknife from the fire. She said that she hopes that the community can come together and be thankful for the fact that they all came through this with no loss of life or buildings.