Ottawa will spend a further $133 million to help Indigenous businesses suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Thursday the federal government has heard from many of the 30,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis business owners who have said the last few months have been extremely difficult.
He said many of them have been falling through gaps in previously announced aid.
"Most of these businesses are small- to medium-sized enterprises operated in sectors particularly hard hit by COVID-19. Due to their small size, they operate with low liquidity and face unique challenges in accessing private credit," Miller said.
Of the total amount announced Thursday, $117 million will go to help small and community-owned Indigenous businesses.
Communities can use this money to assist micro-entrepreneurs including home-based businesses as well as hunters and artisans who are ineligible for mainstream measures, Miller said.
"Funding could be used for various activities such as community economic development services, capacity building, planning and retrofitting of businesses for reopening," Miller said.
NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who represents Nunavut, has raised concerns about Inuit artists and others who have not been eligible for any of the emergency aid programs rolled out by Ottawa to date, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
"Artists and artisans, performers, artists, carvers, jewellers — they may not necessarily have documentation that says how much they've made in whatever length of time. They might not necessarily be viewed as a businesses, they might fall through the cracks," she said in a recent interview.
"It's much more complicated than it needs to be, and the best thing we can see the federal government do is $2,000 for everyone," she added, echoing NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's calls for universal access to the CERB.
The remaining $16 million announced Thursday will support Indigenous businesses in the tourism sector, which supports thousands of jobs across the country.
This targeted funding will help Indigenous tourism operations as they seek new ways of operating in a changed world, Miller said.
This money adds to $306 million in federal emergency aid announced in April for small- and medium-sized Indigenous businesses.
That money was earmarked for short-term interest-free loans and contributions through Indigenous financial institutions, which offer financing and business support services to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis businesses.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020.