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Mayor Brown hosts teleconference on COVID-19 initiatives

April 3, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Local leaders from all levels of government participated in a special teleconference discussion on Monday (March 30) in an attempt to keep area residents informed about the new programs and initiatives established at the federal, provincial and municipal levels during the COVID-19 crisis.

Dufferin-Caledon MP Kyle Seeback, Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones and Dufferin Warden Darren White joined Orangeville Mayor Sandy Brown for the panel discussion, which was aired live on the Town of Orangeville’s YouTube channel. Heather Hayes, Executive Director of the Orangeville Food Bank, was also involved. 

First up, Ms. Jones stated this is a “very fluid and changing environment” for all levels of government, while discussing a number of the things the Ontario government has initiated over the past week.

Last Wednesday (March 25), Premier Doug Ford announced the Province would be making $10 billion available to Ontarians to improve cash flow for households and businesses during this challenging economic time. The Province is initiating a five-month interest and penalty-free period that will allow businesses to defer the majority of provincially administered taxes. Also, Ms. Jones announced the government had come to a deal with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), which will allow businesses to defer all WSIB payments for six months – a move that will provide approximately $1.9 billion in financial relief. 

The Province has also agreed to defer for 90 days the property tax payments which municipalities collect and pay to school boards, which she said will provide local cities and towns the necessary wiggle room to provide tax relief to local residents.

“We are working closely with all levels of government and will continue to do everything we can and consider all available options to get through these challenging and uncertain times,” Ms. Jones said. 

Mr. Seeback commended the Liberal federal government for the assistance they are providing to Canadians. He made note of the Canadian Emergency Response benefit, which is available to anyone who has earned $5,000 in income over the past year, and have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Individuals will be eligible $2,000 per month for up to four months if they have stopped working due to the virus. Applications for this program will open next Monday (April 6). 

“It’s a pretty broad application. The important thing I want to say is not all the details are rolled out yet. You can apply for this through your MyCRA account, available at www.canada.ca. If you don’t have an account, now is the time to get one,” Mr. Seeback said. “The goal is going to be to have the money delivered to people within ten days of completing an application. It’s important for people to sign up to MyCRA, because that is going to be the most seamless way for you to apply for the benefit.”

The federal government will also be providing substantial support for Canadian businesses. Announced last week, the government unveiled a new subsidy that will cover up to 75 percent of an employee’s first $58,700 in annual earnings for businesses whose revenue has decreased by at least 30 percent due to COVID-19. This subsidy will also be available to charities in the not-for-profit sector, Mr. Seeback confirmed. 

Elsewhere, the Canada Child Benefit will be seeing an increase, providing an additional $300 per child. There will be a special GST rebate, for low and modest income families, processed soon, which will provide $400 cheques for individuals, or $600 for households, while the government has pushed off the deadline to submit 2019 taxes until June 1. 

Warden White sought clarification on the Canadian Emergency Response benefit, bringing up a conversation he had with a local resident who, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, held down two jobs.

“What happens to people who have multiple incomes? I had one gentleman inform me he had two sources of income – one has been shut down due to COVID-19, but one has not. While he is still earning money, he has seen a substantial reduction in income generally. Does he qualify for the grant?” Mr. White asked.

Mr. Seeback retorted, “I don’t have all the details, but my understanding is if you suffer from a loss of income due to this thing, you’re going to be able to apply for the benefit… I do think that person will qualify.”

For his part, Mr. White noted it was largely business as usual for the County. The municipality’s public works department and community services sector were still up and running, while an emergency operations centre, launched last week, is fully staffed and operational. 

One change people will see is an adjustment to the amount of garbage the County’s waste management staff will collect on a weekly basis. For the next two weeks, residents will be able to put out two bags for pickup.

“The uptake seems to be around 20 to 30 percent of people taking advantage of that. We’ll move forward with this for the next two weeks, and then re-evaluate as we move forward,” Mr. White stated. 

Mayor Brown reiterated some of the changes Orangeville Council initiated last week, including the waiving of all interest and penalty charges for unpaid taxes and hydro bills over the next three months, making public transit free to all residents, and expanding online services for members of the Orangeville Public Library. He also noted that all spending on upcoming municipal projects is currently being evaluated by staff, and would be discussed at the next meeting of Orangeville Council, slated for next Monday, April 6. 

With the COVID-19 situation showing no signs of slowing down, Mayor Brown indicated the responsibility falls on the general public to ensure they are following the advice of healthcare professionals to help stem the spread of the virus.

“Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents fought in real wars, where people died at the end of a gun and fought in trenches. We’re fighting a war right now and being asked to lie on a couch and watch Netflix,” Mayor Brown said. “Although it’s an annoyance, and there is a lot of anxiety, we can get through this by listening to medical and public health officials who are following data as it comes out of other countries this virus has already torn through.”

He added, “We have to learn from what’s happened in other parts of the world. We have to adopt what medical professinals are telling us. I haven’t seen or heard from one medical professional who hasn’t said this is a very, very serious problem we’re dealing with. Let’s all pull together and take advantage of the assistance provided (by the federal and provincial governments) and beat this thing.”



         

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