New Brunswickers who took a staycation this fall or winter who are hoping to get a rebate from the province have less than two weeks left to submit their receipts.
The Explore NB Travel Incentive Program began accepting applications April 1 and closes April 30, said Department of Tourism spokesperson Jeremy Trevors.
No news release was issued when the program was launched. Trevors and two other department spokespeople didn't respond Friday to questions about why.
The program was promoted on social media on April 1, prompting at least one commenter to question if it was an April Fool's joke since the eligible travel period had already ended, but the deadline for applications was not mentioned.
As recently as mid-February, Tourism Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace told CBC News details about the renewed program were still being worked out. She encouraged people to check the department's website regularly for updates.
The fall/winter program, said Trevors, is very similar to last summer's program, which was created to help offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry.
New Brunswick residents 19 years or older can submit a claim for a 20 per cent rebate on up to $1,000 spent on eligible travel-related expenses that included a paid overnight stay at an accommodation in the province between Oct. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.
So far, 1,217 people have submitted claims, said Trevors.
Fewer applications expected
By comparison, there were 25,258 applicants for last summer's program, with claims totalling more than $2.5 million.
"We aren't sure what to expect regarding uptake, but we do feel it won't be significant due to [the COVID-related] travel restrictions," Trevors said in an emailed statement.
"However, we knew it was important to honour our commitment to the program regardless of this," he said, referring to the fact the government had committed in the November speech from the throne to renew the program for fall/winter travel.
Budget is $4.5M for upcoming summer rebate
On Thursday, Scott-Wallace announced the program will be reoffered again this summer, with a budget of $4.5 million.
It's an important part of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan, she said.
Meanwhile, the department is still dealing with claims from last summer, Trevors confirmed.
A total of 1,340 claims need to be reviewed, he said, without offering an estimated completion date.
The department has improved the way it processes applications, said Trevors. "We are processing applications as soon as they are submitted," he said.
"In addition, a resubmission process was implemented in January. The processing team is now reaching out to applicants if they submitted a receipt in error and will provide a two-week window for them to submit the correct receipt."
Trevors did not say how many people have received their summer rebate.
No details about this summer's program have been released yet, but Trevors expects it will be very similar to last summer's program.
The department's website says the details will be shared soon.