Indigenous sole proprietors are now eligible for COVID-related funding under the Tourism Relief Fund, according to the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC).
Launched last July, the $500-million Tourism Relief Fund aims to alleviate COVID-related hardships for tourism-related businesses by helping them adapt their operations to meet public health requirements; improve their products and services; or position themselves for post-pandemic economic recovery.
Of the funding, 10 per cent — or $50 million — has been set aside specifically for Indigenous tourism initiatives. However, sole proprietorships previously did not qualify, even though 65 per cent of Indigenous businesses are operated as sole proprietorships.
That's now changed, thanks to lobbying by the ITAC and other organizations, ITAC said.
“Tourism is one of the largest employers and economic drivers for Indigenous communities across Canada,” ITAC said in a Jan. 14 statement.
“With the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector, Indigenous communities that rely heavily on tourism have been disproportionately affected."
Under the funding, successful applicants can submit for costs incurred up to 12 months prior to the receipt of a project application, but no earlier than April 19, 2021.
Eligible applicants include businesses; not-for-profit organizations, such as tourism associations; and band councils or other Indigenous organizations and cooperatives.
They must be a key supplier or operator in the visitor experience; part of a defined tourism cluster or a tourism-dependent community, including supporting downtown cores; or provide an anchor product or service in a tourism destination.
Indigenous businesses in Northern Ontario should contact FedNor for more information on eligibility requirements and the application process.