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    Sandy Silver interview April 8, 2022 CHONfm

COVID-19 support money coming for Yukon businesses as Omicron wave reaches “critical moment”

“It’s going to help out but it’s not a lot of money,” says one bar general manager

Minister of Economic Development Ranj Pillai announces new COVID-19 funds for businesses (screenshot from Facebook.com/yukongov).

This morning the Yukon’s Minister of Economic Development Ranj Pillai announced new supports to help Yukon businesses through the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Under the Tourism Non-Accommodation Sector Supplement program, bars and restaurants will be eligible for $20,000 per month – up to $60,000 – as well as a one-time payment of $10,000 to cover costs like payroll.

 

The government has also made changes to the Yukon Nominee Program in an effort to help businesses increase staffing. The program for hiring foreign workers usually requires companies to prove they can’t find Canadian employees by advertising job openings for four weeks. That requirement has been lifted until June 30.

 

The news comes at a time when both Yukon’s official opposition, the Yukon Party, and third party, the NDP have been criticizing the government for not offering adequate supports for the territory’s hospitality industry.

 

“I’d like to see them even go further”

 

Last week the Yukon NDP hosted a virtual round table discussion with restaurant and bar owners across the territory.  After the meeting, the party came up with a list of ways the government could help businesses.

 

The list includes suggestions like simplifying the process of applying for funding and creating a contact point for businesses that want to ask questions about public health orders. The party would also like the government to host virtual meetings with local companies when new safety measures are announced. None of those were included in today’s announcement.

 

One recommendation that is now reality – cutting businesses some slack on liquor license fees.

 

Liquor license costs will be rebated 2022 to 2023 season.

 

NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre Emily Tredger says she is happy with that, but more could be done.

 

“I’d like to see them even go further. When I reached out to businesses last week to hold a round table and find out what sort of supports the need, they had lots of really good practical suggestions about how to make those programs even more effective and some of them told me this was the first time that they had heard from someone in government for the whole pandemic. I think if government could follow our lead and really listen to what restaurants and bars are asking for, they could make programs even more effective,” Tredger tells CHONfm.

 

Yukon Party MLA calls for no more proof of vaccination

 

The Yukon Party has also been quite vocal about the need to help out the hospitality industry.

 

In an open letter to Yukoners from earlier this week, MLA for Pelly/Nisutlin Stacey Hassard commends the government for offering generous and comprehensive business supports at the onset of the pandemic but he says now they have been replaced with some of the most restrictive measures in the country.

 

Hassard wants all Yukoners – vaccinated or not – to be able to access non-essential services. He says the proof of vaccination requirement drives down sales and adds costs to businesses.

 

He also wants to see the 10pm closing time for bars and restaurants removed. They government says they plan to lift that rule by March first but Hassard wants it gone immediately.

 

The Yukon Party declined to comment on today’s funding announcement.

 

“We’d like more loosening of the restrictions rather than money”

Dirty Northern Public House in downtown Whitehorse.

 

Corrina Lotz is the general manager of the Miner’s Daughter and Dirty Northern Public House in downtown Whitehorse. She says she was invited to the NDP roundtable but was unable to attend. She says she has not heard from the government and appreciates the NDP reaching out.

 

She says she will most likely apply for the funding but ultimately, she wants less restrictions.

 

“We’d like more loosening of the restrictions rather than money. We’d rather not take the tax payer’s money and go ahead with running our business as usual,” Lotz tells CHONfm.

 

“Running a restaurant at the best of times is very trying but you know, it’s two years into this now, it (gets) easier and easier. We’re policing people and we’re getting on with things as they need to be to stay open. We’ve followed every rule, but it’s been very difficult,” say Lotz

 

“Our interest is in keeping people safe as well but there are just some restrictions in place that we don’t get or understand and we don’t feel like it’s an even playing field across all businesses,” she adds.

 

Lotz says when it comes to running a bar, the government is not offering much cash.

 

“It’s going to help out but it’s not a lot of money. At the end of the day, it’s not,” says Lotz.

 

“We’d rather be just business as usual and making money they way we used to,” Lotz continues.

 

 

Restrictions Easing

 

Also at this morning’s news conference, it was announced that the Yukon is easing more COVID-19 restrictions.

 

Starting tomorrow, the increased limit of 25 people or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity – whichever is less – that came into effect last weekend for recreational team sports for those 18 and under, will apply to people 19 and up.

 

The same capacity increase will also apply to indoor cultural gatherings, weddings, funerals, and arts and recreational activities.

 

Yukoner’s will be able to gather indoors with as many households as they want but the limit of 10 people will remain.

 

When it comes to restaurants, they will be able to offer countertop and bar service once again as long as there is physical distancing.

 

“Critical moment”

Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott speaks at this morning’s press conference (screenshot from Facebook.com/yukongov).

 

Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott was also in attendance at this morning’s conference. She says data suggests that we have reached the peak of the Omicron wave and there are early signs that we may be starting the decline. She stresses that more time is needed to watch the trends and be certain though.

 

“We remain at a critical moment in the Omicron wave and what we do now will determine what the coming months will looks like for case counts and restrictions,” says Dr. Elliott.

 

“I ask everyone to please act responsibly during this time and with restraint. I would not want to have to go backward with our restrictions,” she says.

 

Dr. Elliott says that the Omicron wave has been severe, resulting in one quarter of the territory’s COVID-19 deaths.

 

“A number of our deaths have been amongst people over 65,” says Dr. Elliott.

 

“The majority of our deaths have been among people who were not vaccinated and certainly not fully vaccinated,” Dr. Elliott adds.

 

Written by: Dylan MacNeil

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