The NWT government announced funding on Monday for businesses and artists to make personal protective equipment (PPE) and other non-medical products.
The Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment (ITI), which is offering the funding, noted proposals must “demonstrate a business case” for the products.
Up until now, many sewers have been giving away masks to people for free and have not been trying to turn a profit.
People making non-medical products, like cloth face masks, can receive up to $1,000 for materials.
Businesses and artists making certified products, like medical face masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer, can get up to $25,000 for materials and equipment.
“Successful applicants will need to demonstrate that they have the capacity and expertise required to meet federal medical certification processes, and begin production in timely manner,” cautioned ITI.
Applications can be submitted to regional ITI offices by email and will only be accepted until demand in the NWT is met.
In a news release, industry minister Katrina Nokleby characterized the request for proposals as a “shop local” initiative celebrating the NWT’s “skilled manufacturing sector and the ability to develop personal protective equipment within our borders.”
“Securing a local supply of protective equipment is one way to support business while we protect residents and workers from Covid-19,” wrote Dr Kami Kandola, the territory’s chief public health officer, in the same news release.
“In fact, as global supply chains continue to be strained, it’s a necessity we take action now to ensure our territory has the tools to rise to this challenge in the long term.
“This is a win for everyone in situations where physical distancing is not possible, or who may come in contact with a Covid-19 patient – and a win for our economic wellbeing.”
Money is for ‘business opportunities’
Asked what was meant by the need to demonstrate a business case, the NWT government said it “applauded” efforts by residents to distribute face coverings for free – but ITI’s initiative was designed for “those that may see a business opportunity.”
“This program is not intended to provide funding for everyone in the NWT that wants to make free cloth masks for friends and acquaintances in their community,” said Drew Williams, a spokesperson for the department, in a statement.
“In the coming months, depending upon the direction of the chief public health officer, thousands of cloth masks may be required for the NWT residents,” said Williams.
“It’s this type and level of need that this program is hoping to address.”