By Chad Ingram
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP andOntario Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott delivered some good news on thesteps of the Haliburton County office on Newcastle Street last week.
That newswas that the county and its four lower-tier municipalities will collectivelyreceive more than $2.8 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the provincialgovernment that money designed to help offset pandemic-related pressures andexpenses. Everything from the purchase of personal protective equipment tooffsetting lost revenues to the possible reconfigurations of work and councilspaces within municipal facilities can be paid for with the funding.
It was part of a larger provincial fundingannouncement that day a total of $1.6 billion for the province'smunicipalities allotted on a per-population basis. The Ford government hasalso said there will be a second phase of COVID-19 relief funding for municipalgovernments that one application-based for those who have needs that exceedthe funding they received in the first phase. Municipalities must track thoseexpenses and report them to the provincial government.
For Haliburton County and its fourlower-tier municipalities there have certainly been revenue losses and mostare projecting deficits albeit not staggering ones by the end of the year asa result. In some cases those projected deficits have included deferringprojects that were to be completed this year to future budget discussions andthey have often not included hidden in-house costs such as the staff timethat's been associated dealing with all things COVID.
However it's fair to say the county andits townships have not been nearly as financially impacted by the pandemic aslarger urban municipalities which have experienced losses in the millions ofdollars due to substantial revenue decline from their public transportationsystems. Since the pandemic is also very much not over it's difficult to sayjust what future losses for municipalities of any size might look like.
The financial state for individuals withinthe county may be not be quite as stable as the one of their municipalgovernments. Many people were laid off near the beginning of the pandemic somehave returned to work others not. As the federal government prepares to endthe Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit which many Canadians have become reliantupon during the past five months it will be a complicated and painfuldisentanglement. A precarious job market will be become hyper-competitive asCanadians come off CERB seeking employment during what is still an ongoingpublic health crisis.
While we know more about our invisible foethan we did five months ago there are still many many unknowns. Top of mindfor parents and others lately has been what the impact of sending childrenback to Ontario schools in September might be. I’ll be very honest in that I’mnot envious of parents making those difficult back-to-school choices and amgrateful that my wife and I still have a year before our eldest child entersjunior kindergarten.
Last week's announcement was positive aglimmer of light in a situation that can be very dark at times. I'm sure localmunicipalities will make wise use of that funding with an eye to the evolvingnature of the situation. Even though it feels like we are a long way into thispandemic it's pretty clear we still have much longer to go.