GNWT grant assistance for businesses reeling from the pandemic-related economic downturn is ongoing even as the NWT has so far managed to avoid another large-scale lockdown.
For businesses seeking help with meeting the operating requirements of Covid measures, the $4-million Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) program offers assistance with expenses such as Plexiglas shields and touchless service windows to help business owners expand their services, said Drew Williams, spokesperson for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).
Other expenses eligible for assistance include website improvements for online ordering, new marketing initiatives targeted at the staycation market for some tourism operators, and the purchase of personal protection equipment for employees.
Funding for successful recipients ranges from $30,000-$75,000. Details on how much businesses have received in SEED funding to date weren’t immediately available.
Specifically for tourism ventures, the GNWT is operating several assistance programs.
The GRIT (Growth and Recovery by Investing in Tourism) Fund is a $1.5 million, one-time program aimed at addressing the pandemic’s effects on operators “by encouraging product development and marketing as well as contributing to select operational costs” to enable them to bounce back after travel restrictions ease and tourists return.
ITI and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) each contribute $750,000 to the program.
Recipients of GRIT funding must complete their projects by March 31, 2021.
The $1-million Tourism Product Diversification and Marketing Program (TPDMP) can help businesses improve or expand their tourism operations by providing funding for planning, product development, packaging and marketing. Businesses, economic development agencies, communities, Indigenous organizations and Indigenous culture tourism ventures are eligible to apply.
TPDMP has three schedules for funding. In the first, up to $25,000 is available per applicant for developing business plans to enhance an existing product or develop a new product aimed at increasing revenue for an existing tourism business and attracting new visitors to the NWT. Costs can cover consulting fees, developing business plans and the expenses for obtaining a Tourism Operator Licence.
In the second schedule, up to $250,000 is available over one or several years for product development and enhancement. Recipients who receive funding can reapply again after five years since the assistance was received. Covered costs can include start-up expenses, capital acquisition, skills upgrading, services or amenities upgrading, website development or development costs related to product offerings.
In the third schedule, recipients can access up to $10,000 for tourism marketing projects to cover such expenses as travel to trade shows, brochure or pamphlet development, launch campaigns and website development.
The Community Tourism Infrastructure Contribution program (CTIC) provides funding to community governments and non-governmental organizations to support “new and innovative tourism infrastructure projects” in and around their communities.
Eligible applicants include municipal governments, band councils, economic development agencies, Indigenous organizations and non-profit societies in good standing and registered in the NWT.
Recipients can receive up to $200,000 or half of their of project costs, whichever is less. Eligible expenses can be capital projects, communication infrastructure, development of information technology tourism products and planning studies or site development.
Applications for both TPDMP and CTIC will be accepted until Dec. 7 and will be reviewed in January. Successful projects will be invited to submit full proposals for evaluation in March, though that doesn’t guarantee funding.
Other non-loan assistance during Covid includes the Mining Incentive Program, which gave out $1 million across 20 projects for 2020-2021 for corporate applicants and prospectors.
For this year’s allocations, the maximum funding available for corporate projects was increased from 50 per cent to 60 per cent of eligible expenses and some Covid-related costs were deemed eligible for funding.