Mohawk Council relief program keeps Kahnawake businesses alive through pandemic
Published Sunday, April 19, 2020 11:39PM EDT
MONTREAL -- While the federal government announced a financial relief bill for small and medium Indigenous-owned businesses on Saturday, Kahnawake businesses have been getting by with local support.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake had previously set up their own relief fund, covering overhead costs while businesses are shut by COVID-19.
“Right now, we're just trying to maintain their bills so that once this eases up, they have the ability to open,” said Council Chief Gina Deer.
Valley Girls Flower Shop owner Layne Myiow has taken advantage of the Mohawk Council program to cover her Hydro and insurance bills. Her shop has been closed since March 13 because of the pandemic.
“I think I will be fine,” she said. “My biggest concern right now is opening too soon. For me, my community's safety, my family's safety is the most important thing.”
Part of the reason the council set up a relief program is because some local businesses such as smoke shops and casinos don't qualify for the federal program.
“These industries are not recognized by any of the federal or provincial governments,” said Deer. “In those industries, we have like 1,000 Quebecers that come to work in Kahnawake and these people are going to fall through the cracks.”
Myiow said while lost revenue is worrying, there are other priorities that must be taken care of.
“The most important thing that we need to protect here is our First Language speakers. If we lose them, we're gone. They're the last of them.”