Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by the wildfires across British Columbia.
During this difficult time, there are several resources available to business owners to help with managing the day-to-day situation, as well as planning for the rebuild.
Below, we detail answers to some of the most common questions business owners will face.
Please note: As internet coverage may be patchy during this time, we have tried to provide phone numbers when applicable for more information. The underlined text is also hyperlinked so those with internet access can visit the relevant website for further details. Information is time sensitive and subject to change.
Q1. What organizations are offering financial assistance to businesses directly affected by the fires?
- In partnership with the Red Cross, the Government of British Columbia has introduced an emergency $1,500 grant for small businesses, First Nations and non-profits located in areas under Evacuation Order, alert due to wildfire, or those affected by the following major highway closures:
- Highway 20
- Highway 97 (South of Prince George to areas covered by evacuation alerts)
- Highway 26 to Barkerville
- Eastern Cariboo Regional District communities of Horsefly and Likely
- To be considered eligible for the grant, applicants must have:
- 50 employees for less
- Been in operation on or before July 7, 2017
- Been financially impacted by the 2017 B.C. Wildfires
- A net income of less than $250,000 per year
- Resumed or the intention to resume operations as soon as possible
- Has the business or livelihood as the primary source of income
- To apply online for the BC Fires Small Business Support Program click here or call the Red Cross Support to Small Business Help Line at 1-855-999-3345. The line is staffed from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday to Friday. Please note, the $1,500 small business grant and help line are both administered by Marsh in partnership with the Red Cross.
- The Canadian Red Cross has been allocated $100 million in funding by the Government of British Columbia to provide direct assistance to evacuees and communities impacted by the wildfires. The Province is urging all evacuees to register with the Canadian Red Cross, even if you don’t require immediate aid. Registering allows the Red Cross to contact evacuees directly as more information and assistance becomes available. On July 11, 2017, the Red Cross began transfers of at least $600 per household to registered evacuees whose information has been validated with provincial authorities. Even if you evacuated before the evacuation order was given you are still eligible for the initial $600 payment. The eligibility criteria is as follows:
- You have evacuated your residence (whether from an evacuation order or evacuation alert)
- You must pass identity.
- For further details on the assistance available from the Canadian Red Cross, please consult their BC Fires Assistance FAQs
- Agricultural businesses are one of the largest groups affected by the B.C. Wildfires. Production Insurance (also called AgriInsurance) and Agriculture Income Protection help agricultural, livestock and agri-food producers protect their business against disaster situations such as crop loss and income declines due to wildfire.
- The Advanced Payments Program is a federal loan program which is available to assist crop and livestock producers meet their financial obligations through improved cash flow and better opportunities to market their agricultural products. Loans of up to $400,000 are available under the program, with the federal government covering the interest on the first $100,000.
- As of August 15, 2017, the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada are working under the AgriRecovery disaster framework to determine the type of assistance that may be required by British Columbia’s agricultural sector to recover from the wildfires. At this point, the specifics of the program are not available, but when they are they will be listed on the provincial Agriculture Income Protection page or the federal AgriRecovery page.
- The Government of Canada currently has two main programs offering financial assistance to businesses.
- The Canada Small Business Financing Program offers a “loan guarantee program to secure small business loans against inadvertent non-compliance with payment terms for a range of reasons, including disasters. Assets guaranteed include real property improvements, leasehold improvements or the purchase of equipment.” For more information on how this program can help you, call 1-866-959-1699
- If you are faced with having to temporarily lay-off your staff, due to the wildfires, the Employment Insurance Work Sharing Program offers income support to workers who are willing to work a temporary reduced work week when there is a reduction in business activity beyond the control of the employer. The program includes special criteria to allow easier access to the Work Sharing Program for business affected by major disaster or public threats.” More information on this program can also be found by calling 1-866-891-5319
- Community Futures Sun Country has announced a BC Wildfire response and recovery loan program to help small businesses within its regional area that were impacted by wildfires. This program offers a loan of up to $10,000 to eligible businesses at prime plus 2 per cent interest over a four-year amortization period. There’s also an option to waive repayment obligations for up to eight months. Eligibility is as follows:
- Businesses with 50 or fewer employees
- Operating when the emergency commenced
- Hold a valid business licence
- Unable to operate (or has operated at a reduced level) for more than five days due to wildfires
For more information, visit the Community Futures Sun Country office at 203 Railway Avenue in Ashcroft, or call 250-453-9165 (toll free 1-800-567-9911)
- The Canadian banking sector has stepped up in response to the B.C. Wildfires, donating both finance and expertise to the effort. Scotiabank, CIBC, Royal Bank and the Bank of Montreal have each donated $50,000 to the relief effort. Vancity building society has created a Red Cross Donation Portal for members and staff to donate directly to the appeal. Banks and Building Societies will also accept donations to the Red Cross at any of their branches, with donors asked to indicate their donation is for the British Columbia Fires Appeal.There also may be help available in the banking sector, so it’s important to contact your financial institution to see what programs are offered to businesses directly affected by the B.C Wildfires. Below are the phone numbers for some of Canada’s largest financial institutions:
Q2. What organizations are offering advice and counselling for businesses directly affected by the fires?
- The British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA) has initiated its Economic Disaster Recovery Program (EDRP) to assist communities directly impacted by the wildfires. The Business Recovery Hotline offers a toll-free resource for advice and direction on getting a business back up and running following a disaster. The hotline is available Monday to Friday from 7 AM to 8 PM and can be reached at 1-877-422-3377.
- The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) offers experienced Business Resource Counsellors to guide your business through this difficult time, connecting you with relevant government programs and resources. If you’re currently unaffected but in an area where you’re at risk, CFIB also offers assistance in formulating an Emergency Preparedness plan. Call their Business Resource Counsellors at 1-888-234-2232 for further details.
Q3. Will my insurance cover any damage caused by the fires?
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada and their BC Wildfire Resource: “Most home and business insurance policies cover fire damage. If residents have to leave their homes because of a mandatory evacuation order issued by civil authorities, most homeowner’s and tenant’s insurance policies will provide coverage for reasonable additional living expenses for a specified period of time.” If you’ve been affected by the wildfires, when safe to do so, perform the following steps:
- Assess and document the damage, and take of affected rooms, goods, machinery
- List all damaged or destroyed items
- If possible, assemble proofs of purchase, photos, receipts and warranties
- Keep all of the receipts pertaining to the cleanup and living expenses
- Call your insurance representative and/or company and don`t forget to ask what living expenses you’re entitled to be reimbursed for
- IBC have also produced a Frequently Asked Questions document, as well as a tip sheet pertaining to Fire Damage to Business.
Following the Provincial declaration of a state of emergency due to the wildfires, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) deployed its Community Assistance Mobile Pavilion (CAMP) to the Kamloops region. CAMP staff are on-site, providing insurance information and advice to those affected by the fires. Policy holders can contact their insurance representative directly, or the IBC Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2275-422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q4. I’ve submitted my insurance claim and I don’t agree with their findings. What are the next steps?
Once you have reported a loss, a Claims Adjuster from your insurance company will be assigned. This process may take some time given the large number of businesses affected by the wildfires. The Claims Adjuster will investigate the circumstances of the loss, examine the documents you provide and explain the next steps. Your insurance company will ask you to complete a “proof of loss” form, listing what property and/or items have been damaged or destroyed. Should you disagree with the insurance company’s findings, there are a number of avenues of appeal.
- Raise the issue with management at the insurance company or their internal ombudsman
- The General Insurance OmbudService (GIO) mediates these disagreements and can also be reached at 1-877-225-0446
- Contact a federal or provincial Superintendent of Insurance if the above steps don’t resolve the issue
Q5. Though not directly impacted by the fire, my business has experienced a substantial loss of profits. How can my business survive this situation?
- Even if the fire doesn’t directly prevent you doing business, it can have a dramatic effect on your volume of business. The Government of Canada’s Small Business Financing Program and Employment Insurance Work Sharing Program offer short term solutions to cash flow and staving off potential lay-offs. Financial Institutions are another potential avenue to explore for financing (contact numbers for B.C.’s largest institutions are listed earlier in this article)
- Small Business B.C. offers tips on how to keep your business afloat in the aftermath of a disaster
- The Insurance Bureau of Canada has produced a factsheet to answer all questions surrounding Business Interruption Coverage and the B.C. Wildfires.
- Depending on the individual financing needs you face, you may need to develop/refresh your existing business plan to accommodate your changed circumstances and seek financing from different lenders. At the minimum, a financial plan for the future of the business should be developed. Small Business B.C. offers a wealth of information on putting together a business plan, as well as financial planning. They can be reached at 604-775-5525.
- If the issue preventing your business from succeeding pertains to surrounding infrastructure like a bridge or road, it’s important to communicate this issue to the appropriate level of government to have it rectified. Your local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) or federal Member of Parliament (MP) are two potential options.
Q6. How can I get my business up and running again as quickly as possible?
- The Office of Housing and Construction Standards features a Frequently Asked Questions section on their site devoted to building codes in British Columbia.
- British Columbia’s Better Business Bureau offers tips on avoiding falling prey to Shady Contractors in the wake of the B.C. Wildfires
- Helping your community to get back on its feet in the wake of the wildfires can benefit your business. The Government of British Columbia has put out a press release detailing ways you can volunteer to help your community directly.
- Knowing how to prepare for and respond to a trauma in the workplace is vitally important in a disaster area. Health Canada has released a comprehensive eGuide on responding to traumas.
- Here4BC is a joint effort by the construction industry in B.C. to help the effort to fight the fires. It aims to provide support to those who have been displaced, lost homes, or businesses resulting from the B.C. Wildfires.
- Depending on the severity of the damage your business suffered, it may be necessary to hire contractors to carry out repairs. The Government of B.C. offers a resource centre for permits, zoning and building/fire codes.
Q7. What are some websites for information on the B.C. Wildfires and how they affect my business?
- The B.C. Wildfire Service offers an interactive map of active wildfires in the province. They are also active daily on Facebook
- British Columbia’s official channel for Emergency Alerts lists up to the minute information on evacuation orders, the latest from DriveBC, and Environment Canada. They can be contacted at 1-800-663-7867
- The Ministry of Transportation offers up to the minute information on road closures across the province due to the wildfire
- The Canadian Red Cross British Columbia Fires resource contains a detailed FAQ, hours of operation for Support and Resilience Centres, a guide to wildfire recovery, and Community Partnerships Program.
- Small Business BC offers support to small businesses across the province. They can be reached at 604-775-5525
Q8. What resources are available to help with the impact of the B.C. Wildfires on my own mental wellbeing?
- The damage from the wildfires isn’t all physical, it can take a tremendous mental toll on those involved. During this stressful event there are a variety of options open to you to look after your own mental wellbeing. The Canadian Mental Health Association features a list of resources for those in need
- Identify your local Regional Health Authority and access their range of online services
- British Columbia Health Services – Health Link carries a section on the wildfires and looking after your physical and mental wellbeing
Q9. Are any tax relief measures available to businesses or individuals affected by the B.C. Wildfires?
- In extraordinary circumstances (such as the B.C. Wildfires) Canada Revenue Agency may waive penalties or interest on outstanding tax payments
- To apply to have penalties or interest waived, download form RC4288 Request for Taxpayer Relief
- Canada Revenue Agency also offers to expedite taxpayer relief requests. Their business inquiries line can be reached at 1-800-959-5525
- If books or records have been destroyed, call the CRA to inform them of the issue at 1-800-959-5525
- The Canada Revenue may allow livestock producers to defer income from the sell down of breeding stock. This allows livestock producers to move the income from selling breeding stock into the future so it can be matched against the expense of repurchasing breeding stock. It is not certain at this time if this income deferral will be available in 2017.
Q10. I have an agricultural business that has been affected by the B.C. Wildfires. What resources are available specifically for me?
- The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNR), together with Emergency Management BC, is working to repair and replace all fences, cattle handling facilities, watering facilities, rider cabins and any other Crown range infrastructure damaged or destroyed due to fire on Crown Land. Please contact your local FLNR District Range staff for more information.
- The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has responsibility for highways fencing. To report a maintenance request visit http://www.drivebc.ca/rahp/index.html or contact 250 387-3198. It is not expected that any of these replacement costs will fall to cattle producers.
- Production Insurance (also referred to as crop insurance and AgriInsurance) covers crop losses, where crops are lost because they cannot be irrigated, harvested or properly managed during a fire. To make a claim contact your local Production Insurance office on 1-800-474-6133 or 250-398-4213.
- If you have participated in the AgriStability program you may be eligible for assistance due to losses caused by loss of production, stored crop, livestock inventories or increased expenses. To find out more, contact 1-877-343-2767
- Looking to invest the money you have saved in your AgriInvest savings program (where governments match farmer contributions up to 1% of eligible net sales to a maximum of $15,000 per year)? Contact 1-866-367-8506. You will be asked to provide your full name, PIN and two figures from your most current application, for example: AgriInvest Account Statement – Opening or Closing balance, Fund 1 or Fund 2 or Calculation of Program Benefits Notice for the AgriStability Program.
Q11. I need to access information on employment insurance, Canadian pension plan, the work-sharing program, or records of employment. Where can I do this?
- Service Canada has created a dedicated webpage for those affected by the B.C. Wildfires
- If you don’t have access to your SIN Number, you can visit a Service Canada office with all the identification you possess to receive confirmation of your SIN
- A reference code has been put in place to allow Service Canada to process EI claims for those affected by the B.C. Wildfires. The reference code is For more information, call 1-800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232)
- If earlier claim establishment is required, Interim Records of Employment (ROEs) can also be completed. Fill out the Request for Record of Employment form, or call 1-800-206-7218 for details
Please visit the Government of British Columbia’s Employment Standards Resource Page for any updates to British Columbia employment standards as a result of the B.C. Wildfires.
Q13. What are my obligations as a landlord or a tenant if my commercial space was damaged directly by the fires?
- The Government of British Columbia has put together a comprehensive .pdf file explaining the next steps for both tenants and landlords for dealing with damaged homes/businesses
- The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation features details on a Housing Emergency Repair Program and Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Program
Q14. What other resources are available to me, and weren’t covered above?
- A number of resources are available to help people and families find emergency accommodation or to volunteer to house people in need.
- A number of groups have been set up to find space for animals and livestock displaced by the wildfires
- The B.C. SPCA has deployed staff to evacuated regions of the province to find and care for animals left behind. If you’ve been evacuated from the Cariboo Regional District you can register left-behind animals by calling 1-855-622-7722 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. (5:00 p.m. on weekends). If you’re located in a different region, please contact your regional district for further details. Owners of missing pets qualify for free registration with the B.C. SPCA’s B.C. Pet registry using the offer code “Reunite”
- The Canadian Red Cross is supporting the Government of B.C. in providing relief in areas affected by the wildfires and has also opened a British Columbia Fires Appeal donations page for those looking to help. Other agencies collecting donations include:
- BC Ferries is currently offering free ferry transportation on any BC Ferries’ route for evacuees. Those affected should call BC Ferries call centre at 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779) to secure travel. For more details, see BC Ferries’ press release.
- WorkSafeBC has been closely monitoring the B.C. Wildfire situation and how it pertains to employee safety. They’ve put together a Wildfire Smoke: Frequently Asked Questions page detailing information on how to keep employees safe from Wildfire smoke, as well as broader issues relating to the wildfires.