Hotline set up for owners of evacuated businesses

For business owners evacuated from their homes due to the Cariboo wildfires, a sense of worry, anxiety and loss continues to linger as some begin making their way back home.

But in an attempt to help them get back on their feet when they return, a hotline has been developed for business owners launched by the British Economic Development Association.

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The Business Recovery Hotline, established in collaboration with FortisBC, began operating on Monday.

"Business owners are highly resilient but we want to ensure that they have access to the necessary information to help them move forward," said Dale Wheeldon, president and CEO with BCEDA.

"Every community, regional district and First Nation are important to B.C. and we do everything we can to support them and their local businesses."

For Susan Lachance, who relocated to Vancouver from her home in Williams Lake, the state of her business, New World Coffee, continues to cause anxiety.

"For the small mom and pop places like ours, its a tough go. Financially and psychologically, it's very difficult," Lachance told Global News.

"When you think about us walking out as we had to on the evacuation, all of our produce will have to be replaced, thousands of dollars."

And the worry continues for many others like Lachance.

"So far, we've had a fairly good steady stream of calls," Wheeldon said. "The purpose of this is to have business owners call and we are then able to refer them to an agency that can help. We are currently working with a number of agencies."

When business owners call the hotline, they will be asked questions which will be determine business and community short and long term needs.

The information is then passed on to organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross, Community Futures British Columbia, the Chamber of Commerce and the provincial government.

The calls are operated through FortisBC's call centres in Prince George and Burnaby.

"The wildfires have impacted many of the communities in which we live and work,"said Roger Dall'Antonia, executive vice-president of customer service at FortisBC.

"We recognize the importance of caring for our communities, especially during difficult times and as such want to do what we can for businesses in B.C."

A number of banks and other agencies are already offering short-term programs to business owners who call the hotline.

"Our next phase will be to go out into the community," Wheeldon said.

BCEDA will be sending economic recovery teams to affected communities to help in the recovery process.

Interested business owners can call the hotline Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at: 1-877-4BC-EDRP (1-877-422-3377).

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