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Indigenous Community Business Fund: All You Need to Know

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The Indigenous Community Business Fund provides non-repayable grants to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis community-or collectively owned businesses and microbusinesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds can be used to support business operations, as well as for reopening of a business.

While Indigenous businesses can apply for all other government COVID-19 relief measures, this program supports businesses that don’t qualify for other COVID-19 relief measures.

The federal government allocated $117 million for this program. This funding was renewed with an additional $117 million in the 2021 Budget.

How does the program work?

The Indigenous Community Business Fund (ICBF) has two streams.

Stream 1: No applications are needed to access the funding under this stream. It is sent directly to communities and collectives to support their COVID-19 economic needs.

Stream 2: Under this stream, funding is proposal-based. Businesses must submit applications through their community or collectives. The funding is transferred directly to communities and collectives.

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) regional offices manage the funding for First Nations and Inuit community-owned businesses.

Métis organizations (listed here) distribute the funding for Métis collectively owned businesses.

What is the eligibility criteria?

For Stream 2, community or collectives are eligible if the business:

  • is First Nations, Inuit, or Métis community-or collectively owned
  • is situated in the provinces
  • has been in operation since October 1, 2019
  • has either suffered an adverse financial impact due to COVID-19. Or the funding will help prevent layoffs, bankruptcy, or permanent closure.
  • has been solvent, financially viable, and not declared bankrupt before the economic difficulties caused by COVID-19 began
  • currently runs as a for-profit entity. Expects to continue operations with a reduction in revenues from the previous year over the coming months due to COVID-19 in line with the terms of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
  • has previously applied for federal business support and been declined (in whole or in part). Or isn’t eligible under business support eligibility criteria.

A First Nations, Inuit or Métis community or collective may apply for funding for one or more community-owned businesses.

What is the procedure to apply?

To apply to Stream 2:

First Nations and Inuit businesses should:

  • Fill out the Indigenous Community Business Fund Financial Assistance Application form
  • Provide financial statements to prove the reduction in revenue for the period of the application request
  • Include a copy of the business continuity or recovery plan
  • Provide letters patent or incorporation documents, if incorporated
  • Submit the application to their ISC regional office representative by email (details here). Applicants will receive an acknowledgement notification within two business days of submission.

Métis businesses should:

  • Apply directly to the Métis organizations in the same province as the Métis business.
  • Each organization will review the applications as per ICBF criteria. For more information, please get in touch with the Métis organization of your province.
What is the application deadline?

There is no deadline. Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until all funding is exhausted.

What costs and activities are eligible under this Fund?

Under Stream 1, non-repayable financial contributions is available for the following activities:

  • For covering general economic needs related to the pandemic: Community or collective economic recovery strategies, expert advice, general business support services
  • Helping microbusinesses with minimal employees: home-based single proprietorship or family-run businesses that could not avail other federal relief measures

Under Stream 2, non-repayable funds for pandemic-affected businesses will be considered for the following operating costs:

  • Capital lease payments for existing equipment and machinery
  • Salaries and benefits (at the same rate as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and only if ineligible for it)
  • Utilities
  • Bank charges and interest payments
  • Professional fees
  • Monthly insurance payments
  • Rent or mortgage, only if ineligible for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance
  • Supply and delivery costs
  • Operating costs or capital expenditures related to adapting the business and services
  • Payments for regularly scheduled debt service of an existing debt that is not related to other federal COVID-19 financial support programs
  • Other reasonable applicable operating costs

COVID-19-related costs incurred on adapting, planning, and reopening a business will also be considered for funding. These include, costs needed to comply with provincial health regulations, retraining, marketing, professional services, etc.

Need support navigating business issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.