Small businesses in Grand Forks will get $2.9M for flood recovery

Grand Forks, B.C., population 4,000, was the hardest hit by flooding in May. Entire neighbourhoods were enveloped with water and the downtown strip became a river, with many businesses ravaged.

Nearly 1 in 4 businesses are still closed months after spring flooding

Roger Soviskov inside the gutted Jogas Espresso Cafe. The business owner said he'll have spent around $1 million refurbishing the coffee shop once his renovations are finished. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Small businesses in a West Kootenay city still struggling to recover from destructive spring floods are getting nearly $3 million in grants to help.

Grand Forks, B.C., was one of the the hardest hit by flooding in May. Entire neighbourhoods were enveloped with water and the historic downtown strip became a river, with many businesses ravaged.

By late November, orange tarps were still draped over many storefronts in the city, population 4,000. Nearly one in four businesses are still closed.

Downtown Grand Forks was inundated during the flooding in May. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

On Monday, the province announced $2.9 million in grants to help the many small businesses still recuperating. 

"Recovery is a long process that involves meeting immediate needs, strengthening the community once again and then mitigating risk in the future," said Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness.

Many businesses along Grand Forks' historic downtown strip are still shuttered, seven months after the flood. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Roger Soviskov, owner of Jogas Espresso Cafe, said he had to rebuild his business "from nothing."

"When it's all said and done, between the demolition, the rebuild, the contents, the loss of business, insurance — which doesn't pay a lot — we're looking at close to $1 million," he said.

"[We] just barely had enough."

Many owners of affected businesses didn't have flood insurance, while some who did say they are still haggling with their brokers and don't have the capital to re-open.

A flooded area of Grand Forks, B.C., is seen in an aerial view on May 12. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Business owners who need help will be able to apply for a share of the money, which will be distributed by the Red Cross. Those eligible could qualify for up to $18,500, with the potential for further cash for business recovery and emergency help.

Eligible businesses include small businesses and not-for-profit organizations located in areas of the Regional Kootenay Boundary District that have been under evacuation order or alert.

A statement from the province said the Red Cross will provide more information on how to apply in coming weeks.

Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor said there hasn't been enough support for businesses so far after the flood and told Radio West host Sarah Penton that he was "thrilled" the money finally came.

"It will make a difference for a lot of people," Taylor said. "The other thing is, it's hope. It's practical and it's more than good will."

He's hopeful the funds will lead to a revitalization of Grand Forks' downtown, which he said could use some work.

"To some extent we were in a bit of a doldrum before the flood," he admitted. "So we're looking at this as a real opportunity."

He said the impression he wants to give of Grand Forks is of a community that's moving on and moving ahead.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

With files from Bob Keating

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