The federal government will provide $306 million in funding to help small and medium-sized Indigenous businesses suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding will allow for short-term, interest-free loans and non-repayable contributions through Aboriginal financial institutions, which offer financing and business support services to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis businesses.
The money will be administered by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the money will help thousands of businesses bridge to better times, including many that are owned and run by Indigenous women.
“These businesses employ people right across the country in small communities and big cities alike. They create good jobs in a whole range of sectors so when we support them, we’re supporting families and workers too,” Trudeau said.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller noted that many smaller, Indigenous businesses are being disproportionately affected by the economic downturn of the pandemic, especially smaller companies and those that do not have access to financing from larger banks.
“These businesses may and are already facing unique challenges such as being in rural or remote locations and having less access to capital,” Miller said.
Providing financial help through the 59 Aboriginal financial institutions will enable them to keep supporting small and medium First Nation, Inuit and Metis businesses, offering flexibility so they can be in a better position to weather the crisis, he said.
These measures are expected to help 6,000 Indigenous-owned businesses get through the financial challenges that the pandemic is having on companies forced to close their doors or those suffering major drops in business due to public safety and physical distancing restrictions.
Trudeau said this is just a first step and that more help for Indigenous businesses would be coming soon.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2020.