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Federal Covid-19 cash for Northern airlines to land within 'days'

1701danvandal41.jpg Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo Dan Vandal, northern affairs minister, centre ....... from left are Matthew Spence, regional director general with Crown-., ........ Vandal, Norman Yakeleya, Phil Moon Son, NWT Michael McLeod, and ......

Cash from an $8.7 million envelope for Northern airlines will flow "in a matter of days," federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal said Wednesday.

"Details (of who will receive it) will be negotiated between the GNWT and Transport Canada," he said during a phone interview. "It’s very important because it assists critical supply chains for food, medical care and transportation."

Vandal said how much of a $15 million package for businesses in the three territories will end up in the NWT through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) will also be announced shortly by Mélanie Joly, minister of economic development and official languages.

"We know there are 3,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in the territories," he said. "Eighty per cent of those enterprises have less than 20 employees. These dollars will be used to help these companies who are not getting a lot of support and who are slipping through the cracks."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the NWT would receive another $24 million for health care. Another $25 million was earmarked for the territories through Nutrition North Canada, to increase access to nutritious food for Northern families.

Vandal said that money will subsidize "family friendly items" and nutritious food at a rate of 50 cents per kilogram, and $1 per kilogram for hygiene products.

He wouldn't say how much NWT recipients of Nutrition North would receive but said "the money will flow immediately."

The NWT Chamber of Commerce commented on the funding for airlines on Tuesday, criticizing the $8.7 million as too small to make a big difference.

In response, Vandal acknowledged that the funding packages aren't perfect and "sometimes there’s a reasonable argument to be made that some people are being left out. But we’ve already made changes to some programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

"We’re willing to listen to arguments. And we know this crisis isn't going to end next week. We’re going to be here for the long term and we’ll get out of this together. We’d be willing to consider changes."