The Yukon government is rolling out another relief package for tourism operators — this one for non-accommodation businesses such as restaurants, bars and non-profits.
“Our primary goal is to support our tourism sector, whether they’re private industry or not-for-profit organizations to ensure that we’re protecting them so that when tourism happens again, they will be here to provide those important services and experiences to our visitors,” said Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean.
“This is meant to be to help businesses break even,” she said.
The government has announced two new streams of funding. The first will offer $1 million through the Tourism Non-Accommodation Sector Supplement. A business can receive a maximum of $20,000 per month and up to $60,000 per business.
A second stream, with $300,000 currently allocated, is the Culture and Tourism Non-Profit Sector Supplement that will support culture and tourism non-profit organizations. To apply an organization must be projecting year-end deficits that reflect over 10 per cent of their overall operating budget.
McLean said she expects these programs, combined with the previously released relief for the accommodation sector, will cover most of the tourism sector. She said programs can be tweaked as the government works with businesses.
“We’re working directly with businesses ensuring that they are maximizing all of the other programs before they access these programs. These are meant to be a kind of net to ensure that no one is falling through the gap,” McLean said.
Businesses must max out their funding from the Yukon Business Relief Program and CanNor’s Northern Business Relief Fund before applying. Both programs had a ceiling of $100,000.
To qualify for the Tourism Non-Accommodation Sector Supplement, businesses will also need to submit financial information. Businesses must prove that they rely on visitors for at least 60 per cent of their revenue in order to qualify for the program.
“We’ve really worked hard to narrow it down to ensure that we are using the dollars available to us in the most efficient way and the most supportive way for our businesses that are suffering as a result of the restrictions that we have,” McLean said.
Yukon Party MLA Wade Istchenko questioned how businesses like bars and restaurants will be able to prove that they get over half their revenue from tourists.
“The last time that I went to a bar or restaurant, they didn’t ask me if I was a tourist. So, bars and restaurants are suffering for a whole lot of other reasons, in addition to the lack of tourism,” he said. “Can the Minister explain why she is making bars and restaurants jump through the extra hoops to get this funding?”
McLean responded that the government was not forcing anyone to jump through hoops and the 60 per cent stat was borrowed from the Elevate program, an earlier business-growth partnership with Yukon University.
She said several general business relief programs exist for non-tourism operations.
A spokesperson for the department told the News that businesses will need to either share their answers from the biannual Yukon Business Survey, which asks for an estimated percentage of tourism revenue, or make a signed declaration that could be subject to a future audit.
“We do have to have some measures in place to ensure that these programs are going to the businesses that have maxed out the eligibility and that are tourism-related businesses,” she said. “We know that the tourism sector is the first hit, the hardest hit, and will have the longest recovery.”
Istchenko responded that bars and restaurants are suffering from more than a lack of tourists and should be able to apply without the percentage threshold.
In October the government announced a $2.8-million relief program for accommodation providers, including hotels and cabins, to provide up to $400 per unoccupied room each month to the point of the business breaking even.
McLean has promised a broader funding package of up to $15 million over three years for the Yukon tourism industry.
“We’ll be releasing a high-level view of what recovery will look like going forward for tourism, because this is going to take some time,” she added.
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