Support from northerners like you keeps our journalism alive. Sign up here.



NWT announces increases to business supports, cash for food banks

Wally’s Drugs, Fort Smith’s drugstore, receives structure protection. Epéchile Production/Facebook
Wally’s Drugs in Fort Smith receives structure protection from firefighters in August. Photo: Epéchile Production

Funding sums are increasing for business in some NWT communities hit by wildfires and evacuations this summer.

Finance minister Caroline Wawzonek, who said earlier this week increases were coming, gave more details in the legislature on Thursday evening.

Wawzonek said the maximum amounts of wildfire relief cash available to Yellowknife businesses under the Seed funding program would double to $10,000. For Fort Smith businesses, the new figure is $15,000. For businesses in Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation, the cap rises to $20,000.

The minister said those sums were “reflective of the length of times that each were under evacuation orders over the summer.”

Yellowknife was evacuated for three weeks. Fort Smith’s evacuation lasted for 37 days. Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation were evacuated twice, once in May and again in August.

Wawzonek said the period of eligibility for companies’ expenses will now extend two weeks past the end of each evacuation order.

A formal announcement will appear “as soon as possible,” Wawzonek said, and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment will work with businesses who need to revise previous applications as a result of the changes.

“It’s not going to fix everything,” said Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson, estimating that some businesses may have lost $100,000 or more.

“It’s not a lot,” he said of the new sums. “It’s something, though.”

Simpson said Hay River “is going to have to reinvent itself” in the aftermath of a flood and fires over the past two years.

Wawzonek said $200,000 has also been found within existing departmental budgets “to support food banks and organizations that support food security in communities that were affected by evacuations this summer.”

No further detail regarding that funding commitment was immediately available.