Whoops! Kivalliq Inuit gift card program gets a makeover
Inuit in the region may now spend their COVID-19 relief money at any retailer
The Kivalliq Inuit Association’s $1,500-per-household COVID-19 relief program is no longer exclusive to Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., the association said late Wednesday afternoon.
At the same time, it has divided the benefit into 10 individual gift cards, worth $150 each, for each household.
These moves are part of an abrupt makeover to the program prompted by feedback from the public and talks with the Inuit business community in the region, according to a news release from the organization.
Money to pay for the gift cards comes from $8 million in federal government COVID-19 relief that flowed into the Kivalliq association’s coffers by way of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Last week, representatives with the Kivalliq association announced each household would receive a $1,500 Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. gift card.
The goal was to help people order groceries and other goods by telephone to avoid creating large gatherings inside crowded grocery stores.
But those gift cards were valid only at Arctic Co-operatives retail outlets — which appears to have provoked a backlash on social media.
Now, however, Kivalliq Inuit may spend their relief money at any retail business in the region.
That includes any Northern store, and independent businesses like the Red Top variety shop in Rankin Inlet or the Eskimo Point Lumber Supply store in Arviat, as well as retail gasoline and home heating fuel distributors in each community.
And Kivalliq Inuit can also use the cards to order goods from the south through companies like Arctic Connection Ltd. or the Arctic Buying Company.
As before, the cards may not be used to buy tobacco or alcohol products.
In a frequently-asked-questions handout posted on its Facebook page, the association said it’ll try to start distributing the cards in every Kivalliq community — except Arviat — by Friday, Dec. 18.
In Arviat, which is under a strict lockdown because of its large number of COVID-19 infections, the cards cannot be distributed until after the Kivalliq association works out a plan with Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer.
“We are working closely with the Chief Public Health Office to come up with a plan that will keep everyone safe and to avoid the large gathering of people in the community stores,” states the post.
Those discussions are still continuing. The Kivalliq association said it hopes to have a plan for Arviat “in the coming days.”