Businesses in the Northwest Territories can now apply to get up to $12,500 from the territorial government to help them cover short-term operational costs, and also apply to cover their costs associated with the vaccine passport program.
"We hope that this increase in operational funding helps to support [businesses] as they slowly begin to welcome back customers and adapt to an evolving operating environment," Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Caroline Wawzonek said in a Friday news release.
A spokesperson with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment said the government increased the limit from $5,000 because the gathering restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the territory were in effect longer than expected.
The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer issued a public health order on Sept. 8 that limited indoor gatherings to 25 people in the Yellowknife area and then amended the order on Sept. 24 to limit indoor gatherings to 10 people. On Oct. 22, the order was replaced by another one that increased limits on indoor gatherings back to 25 — provided that individuals are fully vaccinated.
On the same day, a vaccine passport program came into effect in the N.W.T. which allowed businesses to apply for an exemption to the gathering limits.
The program, in which businesses check the vaccine credentials of their customers and only allow those who are vaccinated to enter, allows businesses to expand their capacity and serve more customers.
Support for vaccine passport costs
The government also announced in the news release that businesses can apply for funding to cover their costs related to the vaccine passport program through the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) program.
A spokesperson said the government amended SEED's policy directive to include funding for equipment, training and new technologies, such as scanners and apps.
"This amended coverage specifically assists businesses with confirming customers' Proof of Vaccine Credential (PVC)," the statement read.
The government said that since it announced the funding for businesses to cover operational costs on Sept. 24, it has received more than 50 applications.
It also stated that in 2020, almost 30 per cent of the approximately 24,000 employees in the N.W.T. were working in small businesses.