A new $1-million local Relief and Recovery Fund has been launched to protect local jobs and support entrepreneurs in Prince Edward County impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund will be open to local enterprises that are not eligible for federal relief measures, as well as small businesses that received other supports but need more backing to weather the crisis.
The local economy has been sideswiped by the economic fall-out from the pandemic, with restaurants, wineries, and breweries forced to shut their doors to the public to contain the spread of the virus.
“The economic impacts of this crisis have hit hardest on Main Street not Bay Street and that is why targeted measures to support small businesses in these difficult times are a priority,” said Sandra Latchford, who serves on the PEC Mayor’s Economic Recovery Team and is board member of the local Community Futures organization, which is administering the fund.
The local Relief and Recovery Fund will provide financing of up to $40,000 to enterprises at 0% interest, with $10,000 converted to a grant if the rest is repaid before 2023. The fund will provide similar terms to those offered recently by the big banks, but be open to enterprises that were turned away by the banks, or need additional support during recovery.
“We are here to support entrepreneurs during these difficult times. The fund is ready and open for applications,” said Dominique Jones, a Social Finance Specialist with Community Futures, which is a non-profit financial services organization that provides social finance to local enterprises.
Community Futures has already provided relief to existing clients by waiving all payments and interest across the board for at least three months to ease the burden on hard-hit Main Street enterprises.
“We need to provide relief, support recovery, and create more resilience for the future,’ said Latchford, who was born and raised on a dairy farm in the County and was Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of New Brunswick.
“We will need to build back better. This is a moment for entrepreneurs to think about how they can diversify, and reduce dependence on foot traffic. We will also need to think about how we can create more balance in our local economy,” added Latchford, who is also on the board of the PEC Chamber of Commerce.
There have been admirable stories of local ingenuity in the face of adversity. The Kinsip distillery closed its doors but then pivoted, retooling its operations to make alcohol-based hand sanitizer that it distributed to frontline workers.
Local food producers and farmers are also banding together to create a new digital platform where people can order local food for home delivery that is expected to launch soon.
Sam and Chris Parsons, owners of Parsons Brewing Company, have received backing from the Relief and Recovery Fund. The Parsons have closed their doors but are offering curbside delivery and touchless pick up, and delivering for other local outfits like County Bounty Soda. “It is extremely difficult to re-invent a new business with so much uncertainty and limited cash flow,” said Sam Parsons. The funding has helped Parsons adapt. “We have learned that our team and our community continue to show up.”
“The first priority is stabilizing businesses and protecting jobs. But we are also rolling out programs to support entrepreneurs who are pivoting and responding to the challenge in creative ways,“ said Ms. Jones, who had a successful career as a banker before moving over to social finance, which invests in creating sustainable communities.