In the absence of any current COVID-19 cases in the Yukon, the focus of Thursday’s briefing by Dr. Brendan Hanley and Deputy Premier Ranj Pillai was on handing out more economic relief funds.
Pillai, though, insisted the largesse isn’t tied to the upcoming territorial election.
The last two cases of the virus being investigated by territorial health officials have been cleared from the books, Hanley said.
“The active case count is down to zero,” Pillai added.
Pillai announced the extensions and expansions of some existing COVID-19 programs, and introduced one new offering during his
He announced the reintroduction of the Yukon Business Relief Program, which helps businesses break even. It will relaunch on April 1.
Pillai said Yukon businesses that previously benefited from the program can reapply for additional support until Sept. 30.
The Paid Sick Leave Rebate is also being relaunched on April 1, and extended until Sept. 30.
Yukon restaurants and other businesses with a liquor licence that are struggling will be eligible to receive a discount of 25 per cent off the retail price of liquor until Sept. 30.
Small and medium-sized Yukon businesses can apply to the Regional Relief Loan Program, which will provide up to $100,000 in deferred interest, partially forgivable loans with no payments until Jan. 1, 2023.
Pillai said he is particularly proud of the regional relief program. He said it’s “a bold initiative” that no other jurisdiction in Canada is offering.
In a media release accompanying the morning briefing, the government announced a number of supports will also continue through the Yukon’s Tourism Relief and Recovery Plan.
• the extension of the $4-million Tourism Accommodation and Non-Accommodation sector supplements to Sept. 30;
• a $450,000 contribution to Yukon’s ELEVATE business mentoring program;
• a $300,000 enhancement to the Tourism Cooperative Marketing Fund, bringing the total to $1 million;
• the Yukon Business Relief Program relaunching on April 1, with support available until Sept. 30;
• Paid Sick Leave Rebate relaunching on April 1, with support available until Sept. 30;
• Liquor discount for eligible licensees available until Sept. 30. Licensees need to have qualified for the Yukon Business Relief Program or CanNor’s Northern Business Relief Fund since Jan. 1, 2021, to receive the 25 per cent discount;
• Regional Relief Loan Program for small and medium-sized businesses. Applications must be received before March 31, 2021;
• Tourism Accommodation Sector Supplement (TASS) available until Sept. 30;
• Tourism Non-Accommodation Sector Supplement (TNASS) available until Sept. 30;
• Applications to TASS and TNASS for the current 2020-21 fiscal year will have their deadline for applications extended to April 15;
• Dedicated funding to support the Yukon’s tourism sector:
• $450,000 for the Tourism Industry Association Yukon’s ELEVATE business mentoring program;
• $300,000 for the Tourism Cooperative Marketing Fund (bringing the total to $1 million); and
• $1 million in 2021-22 as part of an enhanced investment in a three-year destination marketing strategy.
After the briefing, Pillai denied and disputed the money for the programs amounted to an “election grab of goodies.
“It’s not a grab-bag,” he insisted. “It’s a valuable tool for some businesses.”
Most of the announcement concerned programs that are being extended, rather than new offerings, he added.
In his comments, Hanley said the recovered cases were “the reminder that I think we all needed” that COVID-19 can spring up anywhere.
He reminded Yukoners yet again of the importance of maintaining the Safe Six Plus One regimen. He also continued to emphasize the importance of every willing person accepting the Moderna vaccine to help achieve herd immunity.
“It will take years longer to recover without the vaccines than with,” he said.
Hanley wasn’t able to provide any answers to a question as to what percentage of eligible people had signed up to receive the shots – despite being pressed by reporters for the second consecutive week.
He also said results will be available in the near future on a comprehensive survey tracking criteria such as mental health during the pandemic.
Hanley said early results showed that 42 per cent of people reported a decline in their mental health. He said that number wasn’t surprising.
“The emotional toll of the pandemic has often been overlooked,” he said.
“We cannot predict what changes will come, but we will find ways to make life better. This is not forever.”
As of Wednesday, the government reported 14,364 doses of the Moderna vaccine had been administered in Yukon. This number is comprised of 10,781 first doses and 3,583 second doses.