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City aims to reduce economic impact of COVID-19
CALGARY -- Calgary city councillors will hold a meeting Monday morning focused on mitigating the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city is exploring what funds it can make available, in reserves or investment money, to potentially spend on the crisis. Future decisions would be based on response from the provincial and federal governments.
The City of Calgary has created a new support system specifically for businesses affected by COVID-19.
The Business Sector Support Taskforce is chaired by Sonya Sharp, the city’s leader of business and local economy. Councillors Ward Sutherland, Peter Demong and Jyoti Gondek are also members.
Gondek says she’s heard loud and clear from the business community that there are some short term pay points that could make or break them.
"For example, landlords were demanding rent on April 1st," said Gondek. "We did everything we could to advocate for small businesses to say 'You cannot expect standard rates right now, you’ve got to come up with some sort of other model'."
Gondek adds that a lot of landlords rely heavily on rent pay as well and she recognizes those concerns.
Everyone’s quite worried right now about losing everything so we’re relying heavily on the federal government for aid packages but we’ll see what we can put together with the province as well."
The city is also discussing options for property tax relief with the province. The province collects about 40 per cent of property taxes from Calgary and, according to Gondek, has decided to defer a payment of their portion.
"That’s fine except we have to align our expectations in sync with theirs because we can’t send out multiple bills," said Gondek. "When we look at whether we can defer or waive whatever it is with our property taxes, we have to look at what lines of services will be impacted and in a crisis situation we want to make sure that we’re delivering the essential services that are needed."
Monday’s regular meeting of council will occur under 'irregular circumstances' as several councillors will be calling in from home to practice proper physical distancing.
Relief in the short term
The city has implemented some measures to provide relief for Calgarians, including the deferral of all utility payments for the next three months.
The city will still send out water, recycling and composting bills in April, May and June, but people can choose to pay part of it or none at all.
Mayor Nenshi says Calgarians that can afford to pay their bill should still do so.
Council has also approved the cancellation of any Business Improvement Area (BIA) tax penalties between April and June 30. That means a penalty of seven per cent will still apply for taxes outstanding on July 1.
Non-residential tax payers participating in the tax instalment plan have already started to decrease as well beginning in the month of April.
According to the federal government, all businesses seeing a 30 per cent drop in revenue due to the pandemic will be eligible for 75 per cent wage subsidies.
For now, the city’s task force to support business has created a centralized hub of information for local business owners that will link them to frequently asked questions.
That website will be updated regularly with the latest developments from the city, province and federal governments.