Programs aim to help small businesses recover from Fort McMurray wildfire

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – Alberta has earmarked $15 million for its share of a program aimed at helping small businesses recover from the Fort McMurray wildfire.

Under the program companies that qualify can receive up to $20,000 to cover costs, including new equipment, property damage and cleanup.

The Red Cross and the federal government are also providing funding.

The province estimates that as many as 4,000 small businesses have been affected by the wildfire that roared through the region in May.

The program is open to companies with 50 or fewer employees.

Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous says the money will be available starting in September.

“The Canadian Red Cross, Mayor Blake and I met with small business leaders here,” Bilous said Tuesday in a release.

“They told us this is the kind of support that will help them get them back on their feet — we listened and we worked together to make it happen.”

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said it will also set aside money for another program to help small businesses to pay their staff.

Last week, the Canadian Red Cross announced that $299 million has been raised to help with recovery from the Fort McMurray wildfire.

The total includes donations from the public and contributions from the Alberta and federal governments.

The massive wildfire forced the evacuation of almost 90,000 people from the Fort McMurray area and destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings.

Since early June, residents have been returning to the community to assess the damage and rebuild.