Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

β€œIt really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

The Yukon government has announced it will extend business support programs until September.

“I know that the business community is looking for increased opportunities in the coming months. Officials across government, including Dr. Hanley’s team, are working on next steps as the vaccine rollout continues. We’re putting resources in place for when we are in a position to adjust restrictions,” said Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai, who presented the weekly COVID-19 update with Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Hanley.

Pillai announced a new program offering loans of up to $100,000 to help businesses secure a cash flow “to cover costs that help businesses stabilize and adapt.”

The Regional Relief Loan Program will offer deferred-interest loans with no payments until January 1, 2023. If the loan is repaid by Dec. 31, 2022 then 25 per cent of the loan can be forgiven.

“Their first choice, of course, is not to incur more debt,” he said. “But in some cases, there are businesses I think that this could be a valuable tool for. It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

The deadline for loan applications gives businesses about a month to apply, closing on March 31.

Following the announcement the Yukon Party criticized that timeline, saying that the Liberals expected “businesses to scramble” in order to meet it. The federal funding agreement that provided funds for the loan was dated Sept. 30, 2020.

The government is also extending a number of previously-announced relief programs.

The Yukon Business Relief Program will relaunch on April 1. Businesses that previously maxed out can reapply for additional support until September 30, 2021. The Paid Sick Leave Rebate, which covers the pay of workers for sick days or self-isolation days, is also being reset and extended.

The government is also extending a 25 per cent discount on liquor for Yukon restaurants and businesses until Sept. 30, 2021. Support for the accommodation and non-accommodation sector in the Tourism Relief and Recovery Plan will also be extended.

Asked if the extension announcement was conveniently timed before a potential election, Pillai pushed back against the accusation of promoting an “election grab bag of goodies.”

“It’s an extension of programs that were deployed last year. So actually it is giving certainty and comfort for the folks that are in the most vulnerable part of our economic sector, that we are here to continue to support them,” he said.

Despite some roll-out struggles due to heavy web traffic, the booking system for the Whitehorse clinic for all Yukoners over the age of 18 is now back online.

Hanley said booking rates have seen an “incredible uptake.”

“We’re well on our way to immunizing a majority of our population,” said Hanley. “Though we are tired, it’s an exciting time to be a Yukoner.”

Team Balto and Team Togo are travelling to Beaver Creek and Watson Lake this week to deliver second shots and some first shots to people who have decided to get their vaccine. Hanley said the government is currently figuring out the logistics for a third visit to communities but said everyone who gets their first shot is guaranteed to receive a follow-up.

As of the end of day Feb. 24 there were 14,364 doses of the Moderna vaccine administered in Yukon. This number includes 10,781 first doses and 3,583 second doses.

Another charge has been laid for failure to wear a mask on Feb. 19 in Whitehorse. There have been a total of 49 charges and 40 people charged under the Civil Emergency Measures Act.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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