Municipal governments, including the City of Guelph, have been keeping up the pressure against the upper levels of government, and have been demanding more fiscal assistance to combat the negative effects of COVID-19 on the local bottom line. On Thursday, the Government of Ontario opened their own pockets to offer assistance, and they challenged the Federal government to be equally generous.
“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,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark in a statement. “At the same time, we need the federal government to join us and provide our municipal partners with the additional support they deserve.”
Thursday’s announcement distributed $500 million in funding to Ontario’s 444 municipalities, and is in addition to the two phases of the Safe Restart funding that was handed out last year. Each municipality received an allotment based on the household data from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and their portion of provincial COVID cases from January 1 to February 18.
Guelph’s portion of the funding is $3,684,802.
Association of Municipalities of Ontario president Graydon Smith was on hand at Queen’s Park for the announcement, and said that the money will help offset the ongoing fiscal impacts from COVID-19 as cities near the end of the first fiscal quarter of 2021. “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,” Smith said.
Conrad Spezowka, spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, told Guelph Politico that it will be up to City Hall to decide how best to apply the extra funds so long as the money is put towards offsetting the financial pressures of operating municipal services safely.
“Municipalities have the flexibility to use this funding to address the specific priorities of their communities based on their unique COVID-19-related operating pressures,” Spezowka said. “For example, they can use the funds to provide personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and by-law enforcement to keep their communities safe.”
This is another bit of fiscal good news from the Government of Ontario for cities this week after Monday’s announcement that $150 million in additional funding was being offered to municipalities to help offset the fiscal impact of low ridership caused by the pandemic. The Province did not say how much each city will receive, or what conditions they would have to meet in order to receive the funds.
And like Monday’s announcement, the news came with an ask directed to the Federal government to help cover the ongoing need of cities as they continue to navigate the fiscal issues caused by the pandemic.
“We know the global pandemic has created significant financial challenges for communities across the province,” said Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy. “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.”
Both the Provincial and Federal governments must deliver their fiscal 2021-2022 budgets by the end of March.
In one more piece of good budget news, the City of Guelph announced Wednesday that the $3.5 million shortfall for childcare from a unexpected reduction of funds by the Ministry of Education was not as bad as originally reported.
“The County of Wellington has since received updated information from the Ontario Ministry of Education. A planned funding reduction of $3.5 million for the County of Wellington has been changed to $1.29 million,” a City of Guelph media release said. “The County has been working to reduce costs and mitigate impacts of provincial funding changes, and now estimates the City’s share to be about $100,000.
“If necessary, the City of Guelph will use provincial Safe Restart funding to cover these unexpected costs as part of its year-end financial reconciliation with the County of Wellington.”