Yukon gov't offers new loan program for smaller businesses

·4 min read
'Our response was a model for other Canadian jurisdictions,' said Yukon Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai on Wednesday, as he announced new and extended support programs for local businesses. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)
'Our response was a model for other Canadian jurisdictions,' said Yukon Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai on Wednesday, as he announced new and extended support programs for local businesses. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)

The Yukon government says small- and medium-sized businesses in the territory can apply to a new loan program aimed at helping them stay afloat through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The government also announced on Thursday it would the extend several other business relief programs into the fall.

"We were one of the first governments in Canada to launch programs to support individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19," said Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai at a news conference.

"Our response was a model for other Canadian jurisdictions."

Pillai said the government's new Regional Relief Loan Program will provide loans of up to $100,000 to eligible businesses.

The loans, he said, will be interest-free until the end of 2022, and principle payments can also be deferred until then. If at least 75 per cent of the loan is repaid by the end of 2022, the balance will be forgiven.

Several other programs already in place will be extended, Pillai said. Those include:

  • Yukon Business Relief Program, which provides non-repayable grants to help businesses cover fixed costs. Businesses that have already received grants can reapply for further help until Sep. 30.

  • Paid Sick Leave Rebate, which helps businesses pay workers who need to stay home if they're sick or required to self-isolate. It has also been extended to Sep. 30.

  • Tourism Relief and Recovery Plan, which aims to help the struggling tourism sector survive beyond the pandemic through funding supplements and other investments.

  • Struggling bars and licensed restaurants will continue to receive a 25 per cent discount on the retail price of alcohol until Sep. 30.

Missed Thursday's news conference? Watch it here:

No active cases in territory

As of Wednesday, the territory had no active cases of COVID-19. The two most recent cases were announced nearly two weeks ago, and are now counted as recovered.

Also as of Wednesday, the territory had administered 14,364 Moderna vaccine shots — 10,781 first-dose shots, and 3,583 second-dose shots.

The territory's next shipment of 16,100 vaccine doses is expected in the territory by Sunday, the government said. That will allow vaccine clinics for the adult general population in Whitehorse to begin on Monday.

"This is an exciting time," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley who was at Wednesday's news conference alongside Pillai.

"We are well on our way to immunizing a majority of our population."

Appointments for the Whitehorse general-population clinics can be booked online or by phone. The government's online booking site crashed repeatedly after those clinics were announced last week, but officials said on Monday that the problem had been fixed.

The general-population clinics will be held daily, except Sundays, from March 1-20 at the Whitehorse Convention Centre. The earliest available appointments on the government's site as of Wednesday afternoon were on March 15.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer, says the territory is well on its way to immunizing a majority of its population.
Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer, says the territory is well on its way to immunizing a majority of its population.

No Yukon-N.W.T. travel bubble yet

Hanley was also asked at Thursday's news conference about the possibility of opening a travel bubble with the N.W.T. The idea has generated discussion recently, after N.W.T. Health Minister Julie Green said she was hoping for "good news" on a possible travel bubble — or looser travel restrictions — between the two territories by the end of March.

Hanley was non-committal on Thursday, but said he was in regular contact with N.W.T. officials.

"It's definitely something we've been keeping in touch over. We love our neighbours," Hanley said.

"We'll be continuing to discuss those possibilities."

The N.W.T.'s chief medical officer said on Wednesday that a travel bubble with Yukon was not something she was considering at this time.

Contact tracing app not a priority

Hanley was also asked on Thursday whether Yukon might yet sign on to use the federal government's COVID-19 tracing app, as N.W.T. has done.

The smartphone app allows users to report a positive coronavirus test and alert others of a potential exposure. It exchanges random codes via Bluetooth with nearby phones which have the app installed.

Hanley said it's not a high priority as it's not clear what the added benefits would be right now for Yukon, "in our situation of having a containment approach, a small jurisdiction, and very good contact-tracing capacity."

He said that may change in the future, when Yukon eases restrictions and people are travelling more.