Timmins gets $3.1 million in COVID relief

Funding to pay for critical public services and transit needs

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Timmins is expected to receive more than $3.1 million in financial aid for critical public services and its transit system.

Following the rollout of the first phase in the Ford government’s $4-billion bailout package, more details were released Wednesday on how the funding would be broken down.

The province announced Wednesday municipalities would be getting $1.6 billion in the first round of emergency funding under the Safe Restart Agreement, as well as more than $660 million spread out over 110 municipalities to support their transit systems. The money is expected to relieve transit pressures such as low ridership and COVID-19 costs like enhanced cleaning and masks.

In Timmins, the city is expected to receive $2,379,000 for critical public services and $775,512 would be wired to Timmins Transit.

With the city’s deficit hitting $2.9 million, Andrew Marks, the city’s deputy mayor, has previously told The Daily Press the cash flow would help Timmins balance its 2020 books and avoid an increase in taxes.

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Marks also previously said that similar to other municipalities, Timmins has continued to track its COVID-19 expenditures, and public transit services have also taken a hit.

“Those municipalities that were running transit systems, all of us subsidized transit in one way or another. When the actual pandemic started and nobody was charging anything and then nobody was riding the transit systems, there was no revenue coming in.”

That is why part of the bailout package is specifically allocated for transit losses and another part would go to other expenses paid for by the communities.

During a previous city council meeting in late June, Natalie Moore, the city’s finance director and treasurer, told councillors the city’s total lost revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic until the end of June was slightly more than $2.9 million.

Based on that figure and the one-time bailout funding, Timmins would need about 0.000725 per cent of the total package to recoup the lost revenue. Each municipality would receive a different amount based on the specific needs of the community.

In a report presented to council during Tuesday night’s meeting, the city stated it is still projecting the total lost revenues to be close to the previously presented amount of $2.9 million, despite the figure coming in a little more over $2.6 million. The gap is expected to make up for a slow return to “normal operations” from now until the end of 2020 for air travel, sporting activities, court dates, among others.

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Moore had likewise noted at another meeting that the city’s largest dip in revenue has come from a drop in the number of mail-in cheques it usually receives and in-person payments at city hall.

As part of its agreement with the federal Liberals, the Conservatives have also reached a deal for public transit funding. Up to $2 billion would be shared equally between Ontario and the federal government.

In the fall, Ontario municipalities would receive $695 million in Phase 1 funding to address operating pressures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding would be allocated on a per-household basis and would be shared 50/50 between upper and lower-tier municipalities.

During the second phase of the restart program, the Ford government said additional allocations would be provided based on expenses incurred to ensure the funding “meets the needs” of municipalities. Up to $695 million would be available through Phase 2 to eligible municipalities after they provide the province with information on their estimated COVID-19 related financial pressures.

The province also said it is giving $212 million to municipal service managers and Indigenous housing partners under the Social Services Relief Fund to help vulnerable people find shelter. That addition would bring the total amount under that relief fund to $510 million.

“This investment can help them (cities) protect homeless shelter staff and residents, expand rent support programming and create longer-term housing solutions,” reads a statement.

The bailout package was provided in a joint collaboration to assist Ontario’s 444 municipalities with their bottom lines in “urgently needed” one-time assistance. The funding was said to address budget shortfalls and help local governments maintain critical services, including public transit, over the next six to eight months.