The Yukon Business Relief program has been extended to July 23 for businesses experiencing a 30-per-cent drop in revenue due to COVID-19.
“We recognize the positive impacts this program is making,” Ranj Pilliai, the minister of Economic Development, said Wednesday afternoon.
Pillai announced the extension at a media briefing with Richard Mostyn, the minister of Highways and Public Works.
The Yukon government has received 223 applications for the business relief program, with $1.6 million in funding already approved.
Pillai said he estimates the funding extension will cost an additional $2 million.
“That’s something we have to shoulder within our financial framework,” Pillai said.
The minister said he couldn’t comment on whether COVID-19 relief funding would plunge the government into a substantial deficit.
“I’d be getting ahead of myself to speak on the total financial framework,” Pillai said.
“This will definitely lead to a supplemental budget, and there will be lots of opportunity for vigorous debate.”
The minister added that he is “very proud” of the way his Liberal government has funded relief efforts, which he said was done from a fiscally conservative lens.
The relief program provides businesses with up to 100 per cent of fixed costs. These include commercial rent or lease; water, sewage and waste disposal; electricity and heating fuel; telephone, cable, Internet and satellite; software, data services and subscriptions; business insurance; and pest control.
The relief program is funded in co-ordination with the federal government through CanNor’s Northern Business Relief Fund.
“We’ve heard from the business advisory council and the tourism advisory board that help for fixed costs is what businesses needed,” Pillai said.
“We will get through this together and rebuild a robust Yukon economy that supports healthy, vibrant communities.”
Businesses that have been mandated to close and don’t have a set reopening date may be experiencing some uncertainty about how much support will be needed.
Pillai recommended that these business owners reach out to the government, noting there is some flexibility in the program.
“We want to try to help, we want people back to work, we want businesses open, but we want to make sure we use these programs to the best of our ability with as much funding as possible,” Pillai said.
Mostyn, meanwhile, announced the release of 80 government work tenders to the value of $250 million.
“This is almost double the amount we tendered at the same time last year,” Mostyn said.
“We are fixing bridges, erecting buildings, improving parks.”
Some of the scheduled projects include Whitehorse’s new skateboard park, upgrades to the North Klondike Highway, the Carmacks bypass, retrofitting in Dawson City and construction projects in Dawson, Mayo and Teslin.
This week, the government plans to release COVID-19 safety guidelines for construction sites.
The intention of the tenders is to provide projects to local companies, Mostyn said.
Over the last several years, 80 per cent of tenders were awarded to local companies.
There will also be a new online procurement system launching this summer, allowing companies to submit bids online.
It’s hoped that construction companies will fill labour positions with local workers, as COVID-19 makes importing crews from Outside challenging.
Mostyn said he hopes this will give Yukoners an advantage to finding employment.
Pillai added that the government has reached out to construction sectors to encourage local staffing initiatives.
“We need to look harder within our own community for people who can fill these positions,” Pillai said.