Small businesses across the territory are still in crisis mode even with additional GN and federal funding

The issue: Small businesses
We say: Still need our support

The challenges of running a small business are many. To be successful you have to know your niche – where you fit in your community – because community support is vital to staying open, let alone profitable.

This past year has not been an easy one on many of Nunavut’s small businesses. It seems that if a business wasn’t somehow involved in feeding the families and workers sheltering in place it is now balancing precariously or operating at a loss, hoping that no further restrictions occur and that Nunavut continues safely on its path to reopening.

It takes a certain amount of creativity and resiliency to survive in trying times, but these are qualities that Nunavummiut have in spades.

In June, Ottawa committed an additional $133 million to help Indigenous businesses recover from the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, on top of the $306.8 million previously earmarked in April. This latest round of funding will include micro-businesses, which weren’t previously eligible for government aid.

The Government of Nunavut has also put a bit of weight behind supporting small businesses, with a $5,000 non-repayable contribution to assist with operational costs and working capital. It’s been frequently accessed: As of Sept. 30, the Department of Economic Development had approved 86 applications for a total of $308,488 in financial relief and more applications are being accepted and considered.

In addition, the GN, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the Nunavut Community Futures Association have teamed up to offer eligible Nunavut businesses alternative financing in the form of an interest-free, partially forgivable loan of up to $100,000.

Nevertheless, artists, artisans and other micro-businesses have been especially hard-hit by the restrictions on gatherings and closures of business spaces that might otherwise have provided them a place to display and sell their wares.
Nunavut News reported Sept. 7 that artist Greg Morgan estimates that Covid-19 has cost him 75 per cent of his normal income.

The March 16 closure of the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum had severe impacts on artists’ abilities to sell carvings, jewelry and prints. The museum adapted to an online sales platform which manager and curator Jessica Kotierk says made a modest improvement in their ability to help artists sell their wares and the reopening July 7 was another step in a positive direction.

As craft fair season – another key income source for cottage industries – draws nearer, questions are beginning to surface as to whether or not these events will be able to be held at all with the current pandemic-related restrictions.

With careful monitoring at points of entry to ensure building or room capacity is maintained, mask-wearing and sanitation made available, there is no real reason these events cannot be held while adhering to the guidelines in Nunavut’s Path.

Hopefully the GN and organizers are co-ordinating so these vital sources of income are not lost.

Creativity and resiliency are keys to success, but let’s remember to support local as the holidays approach, our small business community needs us.

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