The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is set to receive $1,459,000, as the Ontario government is providing an additional $500-million to help the province’s 444 municipalities to address ongoing COVID-19 operating costs.
The new financial relief will help ensure the delivery of critical services and keep capital projects on track, Provincial officials say.
“Our government continues to adapt and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it evolves, and we know our municipal partners are on the front lines of this effort — providing the critical services people depend on every day,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in a media release.
“Our municipalities have been clear that they need ongoing operating funding in 2021, and it’s important that we step up and provide more financial relief. At the same time, we need the federal government to join us and provide our municipal partners with the additional support they deserve.”
During a press conference on Thursday, Don Shropshire, the CAO in Chatham-Kent, said the only details they have received was what the province announced to the public.
“I can’t answer any questions about whether there is restrictions or how the money can be spent,” Shropshire said.
“The previous first phase of funding had a whole lot of flexibility for the Municipality to deal with.”
Shropshire said after the first round of funding covered additional cost for PPE, training and modifying some of Chatham-Kent’s operational centres to maintain social distancing.
“There was also some money applied last year for some of the shortfalls in revenue,” Shropshire said, adding that some staff cost were also covered in the first round of funding.
Provincial officials say Ontario’s funding is being prioritized to help municipalities hardest hit by the pandemic and can be used to address the unique needs of each community based on COVID-19 related operating pressures.
This funding is being allocated based on a combination of a base amount using Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) household data and an amount based on the proportion of provincial COVID-19 cases (from January 1, 2021 to February 18, 2021) in the municipality’s respective Public Health Unit, Provincial officials say.
This provincial investment builds on the $1.39-billion in operating funding that was provided to municipal partners through the joint federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement.
The second phase of the Safe Restart Agreement was allocated to all Ontario municipalities in December, to ensure that no community entered 2021 facing an operating deficit from 2020.
“This additional $500 million for 2021 builds on a record of provincial government support under the 2020 Safe Restart Agreement and the life-saving Social Services Relief Fund,” stated Graydon Smith, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, in a media release.
“It will help offset the impact of COVID-19 on 2021 municipal budgets in every part of Ontario. By protecting the municipal services people and business rely on most, and preventing delays in capital projects, this funding is an important investment in Ontario’s economic recovery.”
Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board, said municipalities are important partners in the fight against COVID-19
“We know the global pandemic has created significant financial challenges for communities across the province,” Bethlenfalvy said in a press release.
“That’s why we have been there with support from the very beginning. I encourage our federal partners to step forward with additional investments as all three governments work together to protect people’s health and jobs.”
Provincial officials say the government will provide its next update on Ontario’s finances and the government’s plan to continue the fight against COVID-19 in the 2021 Budget, to be delivered no later than March 31, 2021.
The 2021 Budget will build on the $45-billion in support set out in Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover to continue protecting people’s health and supporting Ontario’s economy through COVID-19 and beyond.
Ontario is also supporting municipalities in finding budget savings and efficiencies through the Audit and Accountability Fund and Municipal Modernization Program, Provincial officials added.