The NWT’s finance minister on Friday announced emergency pandemic-related economic measures valued at $13.2 million as an “initial step.”
The measures include help with student loans, more funding for income assistance, speedier payment of contractors’ invoices, and a “pause on most collections efforts.”
The NWT government will also advance some resource revenue cash to Indigenous governments.
“We went to every department and said, what can you do right now?” said Caroline Wawzonek, the finance minister.
Many NWT government grants and funds, often funded a month at a time, are getting their full year of funding up front to provide more flexibility and get more money out into the territory.
The territory’s Business Development and Investment Corporation, or BDIC, will provide low-interest loans to offset up to one month of impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic. The loans are open to new and existing BDIC clients. Existing clients can defer up to three months of their loan payments.
Airport landing fees, truck permits, and Deh Cho Bridge tolls will be removed until the start of June, reducing the cost of keeping supplies moving into the territory.
“The GNWT has been able to identify immediate steps we can take to waive fees, ease funding restrictions, and defer payments in order to reduce economic stress on territorial residents and businesses,” said Wawzonek.
“This is not a time for anyone to worry about bills or payments. Right now, we want to ensure that business who provide public services can do so safely and that employees who can stay home do so without worrying about economics.
“By working together, we stand the best chance of reducing the potential for Covid-19 infections in the NWT.”
Wawzonek said many of the initiatives were still being finalized and would be rolled out in the coming days. “We want to get the money out quickly,” she said.
The territory says it is modelling the ultimate impact on its finances, but was not predicting a deficit for the coming fiscal year beforehand so considers itself to be starting “from a good place” compared to many other jurisdictions.
Student loans deferred, no interest
The money announced on Friday is in additional to federal support, Wawzonek said.
The territory will now create an advisory council to identify the coronavirus pandemic’s economic impacts, ensure the business community is represented, and make sure “items most critical to local economies and jobs are targeted for medium and long-term government support.”
In other measures, non-government organizations and Indigenous or community governments will be allowed to carry over unused territorial government grant contributions and use them in 2020-21.
An extension of the due date for payments to the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission, announced earlier this week, is also included in the package.
Student loan payments will be deferred until September 30, 2020, the NWT government said, and no interest will be charged in that period.
The NWT Power Corporation’s decision to stop using limiters is included in the package, as is a pledge not to disconnect any residents, nor enforce any collection efforts on power customers.