Wendy Coomber (second from left) and Andre Kuerbif (third from left) are two of the three ambassadors who will be assisting business owners in the region find and receive economic assistance.

Business ambassadors available to help businesses find, get support

New program will help businesses and non-profits find, and apply for, assistance after wildfires.

Three business ambassadors hired by Community Futures Sun Country (CFSC) will be helping area businesses and non-profit organizations with wildfire recovery, says CFSC manager Deb Arnott.

This additional support comes thanks to a partnership between Community Futures, Northern Development Initiative Trust, and the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition.

Wendy Coomber, Angela Bissat, and Andre Kuerbif are now available to help businesses and non-profits within the CFSC area. “They will go into businesses with laptops, and work with business owners and non-profits,” says Arnott, noting that the goalposts have changed “so much” since funding assistance was first announced.

“The Red Cross heard the feedback. Initially, communities that were not on evacuation order or alert didn’t qualify for assistance; but we said that road closures had an effect.”

The result was the addition of many communities to the list of those that qualified for funding under phase one of the Red Cross’s assistance program. If a business or non-profit is in a community that was under evacuation order or alert, they can apply for funding; for the list of additional communities that were not under evacuation order or alert, but which also qualify, go to http://bit.ly/2EoXtbW.

“Phase one is now open [for applications] until April 6, 2018,” explains Arnott. Phase two is also open, and Arnott says that the application process for the two phases has been amalgamated. Businesses and non-profits that applied for phase one can go direct to phase two, while anyone who did not apply for phase one can apply for both phases at the same time. “We’re pushing hard so that people eligible for phase one funding [$1,500] will get it.

“But for people who are not online, or who aren’t comfortable with computers, it can be intimidating. The ambassadors will work with people to fill out the necessary forms and help them through the process. This is a new program that’s never been done, so we’re breaking new ground.”

She adds that the ambassadors know what programs are available to assist businesses with recovery. “They can connect businesses with programs that will support them as they go through recovery. And they will interview business owners, identify gaps.”

Arnott says that gap financing is available through Community Futures for businesses that need assistance getting through the winter. A loan of up to $10,000 at prime rate plus two can be had, amortized over 48 months; and businesses can get skip payments for up to eight months.

“It’s very flexible, and it can help until business picks up in the spring and summer. It will help with resources so businesses can keep running.”

She notes that Coomber, Bissat, and Kuerbif will be “very, very busy people” as they cover the service area, which extends from Lytton to Lillooet and on up to 70 Mile. “They’ll figure out between them who will cover what. But we need to get into businesses and help them. I hope people will call in for support.”

The business ambassadors will be working to help area businesses and non-profits from January 2 to October 31, 2018. Wendy Coomber can be contacted at 1-778-207-0448; Angela Bissat can be contacted at 1-778-207-0586; and Andre Kuerbif can be contacted at 1-778-207-0588.


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