Yukon gov't announces new funding for businesses, NGOs affected by COVID-19 restrictions

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Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai speaks at an event earlier this fall. Pillai announced this week that the Yukon government was creating two new COVID-19 support programs for businesses and NGOs taking a financial hit from public health measures.  (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)
Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai speaks at an event earlier this fall. Pillai announced this week that the Yukon government was creating two new COVID-19 support programs for businesses and NGOs taking a financial hit from public health measures. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)

The Yukon government is creating two new COVID-19 relief programs for businesses and NGOs affected by the latest public health measures, including a program to help offset the cost of new equipment to check proof of vaccinations.

Yukon Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai said he recognizes that new public health restrictions "have put many Yukon businesses under strain."

On Nov. 8, the territorial government reinstated a state of emergency due to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. Under the new rules, people over 12 have to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before they can enter certain establishments, including indoor sporting events, gyms, restaurants and bars.

The new relief programs — —the Yukon Emergency Relief program and the Vaccine Verification Rebate — have been created to help businesses and NGOs withstand the financial hit.

The Yukon Emergency Relief Program is similar to the Yukon Business Relief Program that was offered earlier in the pandemic.

It will cover fixed costs, such as rent, and losses incurred from the cancellation of events. It is available to businesses that are directly impacted by the new public health measures, and are not currently receiving support through tourism COVID-relief programs.

Pillai said this program will cover 100 per cent of a business' fixed costs up to $10,000 per month, up to the point of break even. The maximum amount of financial aid is $30,000.

NGOs can received a maximum of $10,000 to cover expenses incurred due to cancelled events.

Pillai said the program will expire two weeks after the territory's state of emergency ends.

Vaccine Verification Rebate

The second program is the Vaccine Verification Rebate. It will help businesses and NGOs cover the costs of new equipment to check vaccine passports.

The territorial government rolled out a new vaccine verifier app on Wednesday that will be needed to show proof of vaccine. The app scans a QR code to verify a person's vaccination status.

"I understand there are settings where staff do not have cellphones or tablets, so this rebate exists to help offset the cost of buying a QR scanner or mobile device," said Pillai.

The program will provide a 50 per cent rebate on the equipment required for checking of vaccine status, up to a maximum rebate of $500.

This program starts retroactively as of Nov. 8 and will run until Dec. 20.

Growing economy

Despite the pandemic and increased public health restrictions, Pillai said Yukon's economy is doing very well.

"[In 2020], actually only two jurisdictions in the country had growth —and Yukon had the most," said Pillai.

The territory had the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country for the month of October, at 5.1 per cent.

Pillai also noted that over 200 hundred new jobs were added in Yukon in October.

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