N.W.T. government announces additional $8.2M to help businesses, communities amid COVID-19
'Wave 2' relief package includes money for the homeless and airport businesses, tourism and taxi businesses
The Northwest Territories government announced an additional $8.259 million to help businesses and communities in response to COVID-19.
This compliments a $13.2 million relief package announced earlier this month, according to a news release sent Tuesday. At the time, officials said the package was "phase one," and that additional measures would be coming.
The announcement brings the territorial government's relief package total to about $21.5 million. The "wave two" announcement was made Tuesday morning, by Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek and Infrastructure and Industry Minister Katrina Nokleby.
A news release detailing the changes says that they will be "implemented immediately," though it didn't make clear how businesses or individuals could access the funding.
The second wave of relief will include:
- $5 million to create temporary housing for the homeless to self-isolate. This includes $1.4 million for creating 36 units at Aspen Apartments and 25 units at the Arnica Inn. $3.6 million will be used to set up 130 units outside of Yellowknife, and for renovations.
- $1.5 million for aviation businesses, taxi and rental car businesses, tourism and service businesses, logistics businesses and other industrial businesses that are operating at all 27 airports in the territory. The government will also waive leases, licenses and concession fees from April 1 to end of June for those businesses at airports.
- $1.617 million in income assistance. The one-time emergency allowance will give increased support for recipients — $500 for a single recipient, or $1,000 for households with two or more people.
- $270,000 in additional benefits to income assistance for clients, by excluding "gifts or unearned income" from the calculation earned until June 30.
- There will be non-financial support to help income assistance clients caring for families in self-isolation.
- Waiver of interest charges on all late tax returns between March 15 and June 30.
- NWT Liquor and Cannabis Commission will offer to buy back all unopened inventory from licensed stores.
- All seniors enrolled in the Senior Home Heating Subsidy will be automatically registered into the current year.
During the press conference, Nokleby highlighted the particular hit to airlines in the North.
"This sector has been especially impacted by COVID-19," said Nokleby, reiterating the waiver of leases, concession and license fees for the industry.
"The supports we announced today will help, but are only part of the equation."
Wawzonek said anyone who has been in the income assistance system in March will automatically receive the $500 or $1,000 additional relief. If someone is not in the system, she said the individual can contact their local income assistance office.
'We're on to the next stage'
When asked how the N.W.T. government will help people who lost multiple jobs, Wawzonek stressed that much of the support for individuals is coming from the federal government.
"I am constantly raising the issue of the North being different, that we have higher cost of living," added Nokleby. She said she's working with ministers across the North on how to have a more northern-focused conversation with the federal government.
The ministers said phase two of their relief package is not the end; there will be more conversations on what is needed in the coming months.
"Now, we're on to the next stage," said Nokleby, talking about the supply chain, and how to keep communities supplied.