The provincial government is offering loan guarantees and interest rate rebates to flood-affected businesses in southern Alberta.
Finance Minister Doug Horner announced financial assistance programs Tuesday to help small entrepreneurs impacted by last month’s flooding.
He said roughly 1,500 small businesses were directly affected by flooding in southern Alberta June 20 and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo earlier in June.
The new "Hand-up Plan" programs are:
- A loan guarantee program, which will provide low-interest loans of up to $1 million that are 75 per cent guaranteed by the province for small businesses, agricultural producers and not-for-profit groups.
- An interest rate rebate program, which will provide rebates of four per cent interest to those participating in the loan guarantee program. The province will pay the money directly.
The government expects the programs to cost about $120 million.
Horner said applications can be made almost immediately and will be approved within 24 to 48 hours.
"Speed is crucial," he said. "Businesses must be able to access these programs now and get money in their hands within a matter of days — and they will."
The province developed the programs in co-operation with the banking industry. Horner said he met with over 30 financial institutions on Monday.
The government is also asking banks to hold off on calling in loans or foreclosing on flood-affected businesses for the next 90 days.
Horner said business owners who are having difficulty working with their bank should speak to the province.
'The lifeblood of their communities'
"These small businesses are the lifeblood of their communities. In order to bring community back, you got to bring the business back. Is it going to be the same as always? Probably not, but we're going to try getting us back to where we were."
Horner said final details were ironed out hours before the assistance was officially announced.
"We want to use the resources that the financial institutions have, as well as the backstop of the provincial government, to get them back on their feet as quickly as we can," Horner said.
At Vin Room, a wine bar and restaurant on Fourth Street S.W. in Mission, crews are working around the clock to try to get the business ready to reopen.
"Probably the biggest stress for me is taking care of the 27 employees who work for us. They're looking forward to us being open," said owner Phoebe Fung.
For Yin Sung, who was able to reopen her tailor shop Wai's Alteration once the floor was replaced, the challenge now is to regain lost customers.
"People start coming down and I think at that time, that's when the businesses will finally pick up," she said.