The Yukon government will top up the wages of essential workers who make less than $20 per hour, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai announced the income support program at a news conference on Friday. He said the funding has been made available from the federal government.
Pillai said that workers will be eligible for a 16-week top-up only if they are not also receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Workers can receive a top-up of up to $4/hr, to bring their wage to a maximum $20/hr.
It's available to both full time and part time employees. Employers can choose when to apply the 16-week top-up, between Mar. 15 and Oct. 3.
Pillai also announced a $750,000 program to help Yukon employers hire students and recent graduates for the seasonal work.
"This funding will help Yukon graduating and post secondary students find summer employment to develop their skills in the workplace and earn income," Pillai said.
Watch Friday's new conference here:
Also at Friday's news conference, Premier Sandy Silver — who along with other officials was sporting a new Yukon University sweatshirt — said Yukon child care facilities, including daycares and day homes, will now be open to all Yukon children. Earlier, they were only open to vulnerable families, and children of essential and critical workers.
Officials also said that dine-in restaurants can start to re-open next Friday, May 29, and that guidelines were now avialable for them.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said the guidelines cover sanitation requirements, as well the need to ensure that nobody who's sick comes in. He also said the restaurants will be required to reduce seating by half, to ensure safe physical distancing.
"I know this is being received with mixed reactions, but this is what we need to do as we start the reopening — proceed slowly, assess for stability, and move to the next steps when we are confident," Hanley said.
Restaurants will be able to open once their operational plans are approved by health officials. Bars must remain closed for now.
"There are some different risks associated with bars, so we do want to treat them separately ... we want to get the restaurants right, first," Hanley said.
Also on Friday, officials said personal care establishments, such as hair salons and tattoo parlours, can open starting on Wednesday, if they have an approved operational plan. Those establishments received their guidelines earlier this week.
Yukon reopening 'in sync' with other jurisdictions
Last week, the government announced the start of the first phase of easing restrictions associated with the pandemic. It also presented a 44-page plan that describes — with few fixed dates — how things may gradually reopen in the coming months.
Silver said Friday that it wouldn't make sense to put fixed dates on things.
"This is how the majority of Canadian jurisdictions are presenting their plans, because the exact timelines of the virus… well, they're unknown," Silver said.
"We are absolutely in sync with what most other places are doing."
The territory has seen 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and all the people have recovered. The last new cases were announced a month ago.