Federal-provincial funding aims to offset COVID-19 costs for forestry operations

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By Jake Boudrot

Advocate Media Inc.

HALIFAX: The provincial slice of a federal fund is designed to help forestry operations deal with the COVID-19 global pandemic.

As a result of an agreement with the Government of Canada, the provincial government confirmed that $668,000 will be provided from the federal Forest Sector Safety Measures Fund.

“All small and medium sized businesses directly involved with forestry are eligible to apply,” said Department of Lands and Forestry spokesperson Steven Stewart. “It is difficult to project an exact number of businesses which may apply but consideration will be given to all that do.”

According to a press release issued by the province, businesses can apply to recover costs for COVID-19 safety measures incurred between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. The Department of Lands and Forestry (DLAF) said eligible costs include personal protective equipment, handwashing stations, extra vehicles and accommodations, sanitization, and facilities for self-isolation.

In July, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan, announced the federal government’s intent to provide up to $30 million to offset additional costs associated with COVID-19 safety measures for small and medium enterprises in the forest sector.

Natural Resources Canada told The Reporter that small and medium sized businesses, which often have limited financial buffers against unexpected costs, provide the majority of employment in the forestry sector. NRC said these operations have been particularly vulnerable to the unforeseen expenses associated with implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures.

“All forest sector operations have been affected to some degree by the pandemic as they adapted to provide safe operations for their employees and communities,” Stewart explained. “The impact on small and medium sized operations is likely more acute than that for large operations due to economies of scale.

“Funding will assist with costs incurred to ensure safety of workers. The fund does not address non-COVID-19 revenue losses or costs, which are specific to each company’s situation, and may be covered by other programs.”

Eligible businesses must have fewer than 500 employees and their primary activities must be in forestry and logging, support activities for forestry, wood product manufacturing, or pulp and paper manufacturing, the DLAF noted.

Although Port Hawkesbury Paper is weathering the pandemic and continuing to focus on innovation and increasing efficiency, Andrew Fedora, sustainability and outreach leader, said such financial assistance is helpful.

“The Forest Sector Safety Measures Fund appears promising and has the potential to benefit suppliers and contractors within the industry,” he said. “It’s fair to say that most business could use some relief during these challenging times.”

The application guide and form are available on Nova Scotia’s coronavirus website. Businesses can apply online until Feb. 26. Eligible expenses will be paid out by March 31.