Yukon Party interim leader Stacey Hassard speaks to media after the legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 19, 2020. Hassard and NDP leader Kate White voiced their concerns over the Yukon Business Relief Program that was announced by the territorial government on April 9. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Opposition reacts to territory’s business relief program

Yukon Party leader says lack of program details is frustrating

The lack of details surrounding the Yukon Business Relief Program has the opposition questioning the Liberal government.

Yukon Party interim leader Stacey Hassard spoke with the News on April 13 to voice his concerns.

He said it was unfortunate that the Liberal government did not take into account the Yukon Party’s suggestion of an all-party committee to go over the economic situation COVID-19 would cause, but with the introduction of the Yukon Business Relief Program, he is glad to see some action.

The program was announced on April 9 and will cover some costs related to operating a business between March 23 and May 22. The monthly maximum for a business is $30,000.

Hassard was initially pleased with the announcement, but said he quickly realized some flaws. He said he was contacted by two businesses, not long after the announcement, who told him that there were no details about the program available and that no one could actually apply yet.

“I was frustrated with the fact that we have a government that appears to be really good at making announcements and getting the photo ops but really has a (bad) track record on following through with the details,” Hassard said.

The News received a written response from the Department of Economic Development. It states that businesses are encouraged to contact the department to start the application process. Businesses will be sent application forms and guidelines once the details are worked out. The government also indicated that successful applicants should expect to receive funding by the end of the month.

The department suggested that businesses gather any information that may be needed to support the application.

Hassard explained that this lack of details makes it difficult for him to say if this program is adequate.

He said this is unfair to both businesses as well as the front-line government staff who have to field the calls from frustrated entrepreneurs.

Yukon NDP leader Kate White also gave her take to the News on April 13.

She said the territory’s small businesses felt “like they were screaming into a void asking for help.” She added the NDP put a similar suggested program forward in a press release approximately three weeks earlier.

“I’m happy to see that good suggestions are being acted on,” White said.

She said there are still some questions about the Liberal program. One question is what this will mean for non-government organizations (NGO) that are not able to do the work they normally do.

“I don’t believe they (NGOs) are covered under that (program),” White said.

She added that rental support and food access in rural communities is another difference in the two parties’ proposals.

As for the scarce details, she said they would come. She pointed out that the business she spoke with is relieved to see help coming.

“This is a good boost for small businesses,” White said.

That said, she said this could have been announced sooner to avoid stressing local businesses.

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

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