Minister of Economic Development Ranj Pillai, left, and Minister of Highways and Public Works Richard Mostyn at a COVID-19 press conference update in Whitehorse, Yukon on May 20, 2020. The two announced that the Yukon Business Relief Program is being extended for an additional two months. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Business relief program extended to July, new tenders on the way

Eighty tenders have been issued so far in 2020; double the amount for this time last year

The Yukon Business Relief Program has been extended for another two months to allow for continued support for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ranj Pillai, the minister of economic development, and Richard Mostyn, the minister of highways and public works, announced the extension during a May 20 press conference.

Pillai indicated that the government has received 360 applications for the various economic support programs since the first one was introduced eight weeks ago and has approved funds totalling more than $2.8 million to local businesses.

He explained these numbers reflect applications to the paid sick leave rebate, the temporary support for cancelled events program and the business relief program.

The business relief program reflected the largest percentage of those numbers with 223 applications and $1.9-million awarded.

The sick leave program saw 104 applications and a total of $166,732 handed out through grants. The events program saw 40 applications with $655,468 awarded.

He said the business relief program will be continuing until July 23. Yukon businesses who are reporting a loss of at least 30 per cent due to the pandemic should be eligible for relief under the program.

“This program has and will continue to provide urgently needed help under these changing operating conditions,” Pillai said. “So I encourage businesses to apply.”

He said eligible businesses will receive up to 100 per cent of their fixed costs, to a maximum of $30,000 per month.

Pillai added that the extension will allow the territory to continue to work with the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency Business Relief Fund. The two bodies have been working together to allow businesses to only make one application and benefit from multiple programs they are eligible for.

Mostyn said the government had passed measures in the 2020-2021 budget that will benefit businesses, like reducing the small business tax rate to zero.

“This will save Yukon businesses $2 million this year alone,” Mostyn said.

Mostyn added this will help businesses like Air North, as the aviation industry is hurting all over the world, and that the budget contains approximately $370 million in capital spending to support infrastructure, housing, health and education.

“This money will keep our economy moving forward and keep Yukoners working through this pandemic.”

Mostyn said there have been 80 tenders issued worth more than $152 million in total — almost double the number of tenders from this time last year. These projects include things like fixing bridges, road improvements, erecting buildings and improving parks and airports.

More specifically, Mostyn pointed out the old territorial administration building in Dawson City will be modified to accommodate the Dawson City Museum, the Alaska Highway in Whitehorse is pegged for safety improvements, the North Klondike Highway will see improvements to better critical transportation links, and work on the Carmacks bypass is set to begin this year.

He added there are also tenders in Faro, Pelly Crossing, Mayo and Teslin.

“Construction is an essential service in the Yukon and was never shut down as it was in other parts of the country,” Mostyn said.

Mostyn reiterated that construction sites do not have to adhere to the 10 person limit, as they are work sites, but there still needs to be social distancing. Meetings at the site should be outdoors and limited to the least amount of people possible, he said.

The pandemic has also sped up the implementation of the e-procurement system, which will allow companies to submit bids online. Compliance issues will be flagged and thus should help prevent disqualifications due to errors and missing information.

The new system should be up and running later this summer.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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