In order to help businesses in Northern Ontario adapt to the many challenges presented by COVID-19, two exciting new grant programs have been recently introduced. Both the Northern Ontario Recovery Program (NORP) and the Business Technology Improvement Fund (BTIF) look to help small businesses across the north overcome the many challenges they continue to face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering financial assistance to those looking to enhance their business technology, adopt new technologies, and protect their employees and customers from the risk of COVID transmission. It’s no surprise that the pandemic has taken its toll on many businesses throughout Northern Ontario, so the introduction of these promising new recovery programs present a light at the end of the tunnel for many business owners.

The Northern Ontario Recovery Program (NORP)

NORP, a recovery program administered by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) was announced on September 28th, 2020 by Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford. The aim of the short-term program is to allow businesses to adapt to the constantly changing pandemic landscape in order to properly adhere to public health guidelines, protect their employees and customers from the coronavirus, and continue to serve their communities without interruption or a degradation in service.

Funding for the Northern Ontario Recovery Program is limited and will be given out on a first-come basis from October 1st to December 31st, 2020, with all applicants being required to execute a legal agreement with the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). Eligible businesses will have had at least one year of operations as of March 17, 2020 and must have been impacted by the Emergency Order issues on March 24th, 2020 which closed non-essential businesses.

Eligible projects must support the adaptation of operations and practices to meet re-opening criteria established by public health guidelines and support employee and customer safety. These projects may include the adoption of new or used equipment, leasehold improvements, restructuring of business operations, marketing for new business initiatives, or purchasing PPE or safety installations. Ineligible costs include renovations not related to public health guidelines, refinancing, business or strategic plans, project management costs, inventory costs, fixed cost expenses, direct employee costs, and working capital among others.

If you believe your business is eligible for the Northern Ontario Recovery Program, apply here.

The Business Technology Improvement Fund (BTIF)

The Business Technology Improvement Fund (BTIF) has been recently introduced by Blue Sky Net, offering financial assistance to small and medium-sized businesses within the Blue Sky Net region. Eligible businesses are those looking to enhance their capacity for business technology and technology adoption, with the BTIF grant alleviating the cost of these new technologies. That means that if your business is looking to enhance its website and/or social media presence, implement new software or hardware to improve business processes, enhance service management excellence, or improve human capital development and technology education, you can qualify for BTIF.

Eligible businesses must be an established full-time business with at least one year of operations and potential projects that align with BTIF-approved program deliverables and milestones. Projects that may qualify for the grant include website development, content copywriting, SEO, responsive design, purchase and implementation of software into existing business platforms, CRM implementation, mobile app development, social media consultations, account creation and optimization, and more.

Costs not eligible for funding include graphic design, photography, social media management, website maintenance and hosting, and work undertaken prior to project approval. Businesses who wish to apply for BTIF must contact Blue Sky Net, have a minimum of two recent quotes from Northeastern Ontario vendors registered as BTIF Developers, and must participate in a pre-consultation session with Blue Sky Net advisers. Successful applicants must participate in a series of brief follow-up surveys to assess project effectiveness after completion or implementation.

Learn how to apply for the Business Technology Improvement Fund (BTIF) on the Blue Sky Net website.

Canada United Small Business Relief Fund

This program offers a grant of up to $5,000, retroactive for expenses incurred since March 15, 2020 for businesses in Canada which meet the program requirements. It offers assistance for any business improvements made for COVID-19, including purchase of PPE, modifying your store for curbside pickup, and improvements to your website. 

In Ontario, it is administered by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, but you do not have to be a Chamber member to apply. If you are in another province, select your province on the application screen and you will be taken to the appropriate application link. Find out more here. 

Digital Transformation Grant (DTG)

Created by Digital Main St., the Digital Transformation Grant aims to provide Canadian main street small businesses wishing to increase capacity through digital transformation with funding for training, advisory support, and contributions. This grant is administered by the Ontario BIA Association, and applies to all main street small businesses and municipalities throughout Ontario which are located in or close to a downtown main street, which employee between 1-10 workers (or fewer than 25 for food service businesses), are currently paying commercial property tax, are a registered business within Ontario, and are open for business at the time of application.

Qualifying businesses cannot be those which supply digital services on a B2B basis, can’t be franchised or not-for-profit in nature, cannot be paying for non-commercial rent on a temporary basis, operating out of a shared workspace, or operating purely online. For more on qualifications for the Digital Transformation Grant, check out their frequently asked questions.

Apply for the Digital Transformation Grant (DTG) on their website.

We are a full-service business consultancy based out of Northern Ontario (a requirement for NORP funding) with a team of experienced consultants, web developers, designers, and digital marketing experts armed with the skills and knowledge needed to ensure that your business gets the most out of your grant funding.

We’ve worked with many local businesses including Northwood Window & Door Centre, constantly working to achieve the highest results in order to see businesses in our community flourish. Our talented team will work closely with you every step of the way to help your business overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic and set you up for a brighter future. For more information about how ion8 can help transform your Northeastern Ontario business, contact us today.