Community Futures were created nearly 40 years ago by the Government of Canada to deal with the economic downturn in the 1970s and has been providing support for rural entrepreneurs for many years.

Never has the need been more apparent than in the 2020s with the effects of the pandemic being painfully felt by small and medium rural businesses in Alberta. 

The Community Futures Centre West has 27 offices in Alberta and Cochrane has an office in Sunset Heights. The CFCWest is mandated to deliver business services for rural entrepreneurs which means anybody outside the urban centres of Edmonton or Calgary. That is how the Federal government defines “rural” unlike the provincial government which goes by population.

Patti-Jay Powell, Executive Director of CFCWest says, “We do business training, we do business counselling, business advising, we also do community economic development projects such as our Smart Start training program that we have in several Alberta communities."

A very important task the CFCWest is responsible for is excepting applications for The Regional Relief and Recovery Funds, or RRRF Program. Powell says that the program has been extended by the federal government to midnight, June 30, 2021. This means there is continued financial support for rural small and medium-sized businesses and non-profit organizations impacted by COVID-19.

This is a fund in which business owners can apply for up to $60,000 to help with their business expenses during the pandemic. The funds are zero-interest, partially forgivable loans to help with covering the impact of COVID-19 and prepare local small businesses with recovery. Eligible small businesses and non-profits can use RRRF to cover non-deferrable operating expenses like payroll, rent, utilities, insurance, and property tax.

Powell explains, “We can fund partnerships, not-for-profits organizations, incorporations, LTDs and sole proprietors, the CFCWest can fund a lot of the clients that fell through the cracks of the CEBA loan at the beginning of the pandemic.”

The RRRF program has provided close to 35 million dollars in funding to rural small and medium businesses in the province.

Powell is expecting that the help will not be cut off at midnight on June 30. They are confident that a program for business restart will continue and will be initiated as there was funding allocated for it in the last budget.

CFCWest is here to help businesses and Powell says, “We will shut down our portal at midnight and get ready for some new support programs for rural small businesses.” 

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