Yukon government won't claw back federal COVID-19 benefit

Under current rules, the Yukon Government is supposed to withhold social assistance payments dollar-for-dollar from people who also qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Health Minister Pauline Frost says the government will waive that rule through the end of June.

Health Minister Pauline Frost also announces six more ventilators, efforts at Whitehorse shelter

A file photo of Yukon Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost. Frost says the government will not claw back the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit from people who are receiving social assistance (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Yukon Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost says the government will not claw back the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from people who are receiving social assistance.

Under current rules set out in the territory's Social Assistance Act, the territorial government is required to reduce assistance payments to people who get the federal benefit of $2,000 per month.

Frost said she'll issue an order under the Civil Emergency Measures Act that will override that requirement for three months.

"I want to stress to all Yukoners that we're doing all we can to ensure you are not placed in financial hardship due to our response to the pandemic," Frost said during a news conference Monday.

The order will apply for April, May and June. People who qualify for CERB can receive the benefit for up to four months.

Frost said the government will consider extending the order for another month if necessary. It wasn't clear from Frost's remarks why the government did not simply issue the order for four months.

Frost also said the government was aware that social assistance rules would require the government to claw back any income from CERB. She said that hasn't happened to any social assistance recipients.

More ventilators coming

Frost also said the Yukon will receive six more ventilators from the public health agency of Canada, bringing the Yukon's total to 15.

One of the new ventilators will go to the territory's Emergency Medical Service, while the other five will be stationed at the Whitehorse General Hospital. 
Whitehorse General Hospital pictured on Sept. 9, 2019. (Steve Silva/CBC)

Deputy health minister Stephen Samis said there are ventilators at hospitals in Dawson and Watson Lake. But he said it makes sense for most of them to be located in Whitehorse.

"Given that the only intensive care unit in the territory that could handle any kind of serious hospitalizations due to COVID is at WGH [Whitehorse General Hospital], the bulk of them will be here," he said.

Steps at Whitehorse shelter

Frost also said the government is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter. Staff have stepped also up sanitation at the shelter. 

Some clients with lesser needs have been moved to temporary shelter elsewhere, and the dining area has been redesigned to allow for physical distancing, Frost said.

Frost said there will soon be on-site COVID-19 testing at the shelter. 

There have been no recorded cases of community spread of COVID-19 in the Yukon. All 11 cases have been traced to out-of-territory travel, health officials say.


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