THUNDER BAY - With a projected shortfall of just under $9 million in 2021 due to COVID-19, the treasurer with the city of Thunder Bay said the announcement of additional funding to help offset the costs is welcome news.
“Yesterday, as we were putting the final touches on the 2021 budget, we were advised we would be receiving the additional $1.24 million,” said Linda Evans, city treasurer.
“This in addition to the approximately $3 million we have left over from the phase one funding will definitely assist us as we address the just under $9 million in COVID pressures we are anticipating for 2021.”
In August, the city of Thunder Bay received $9.4 million through the federal and provincial safe restart funding to support COVID-19 related operating costs and pressures.
Of that funding, $3 million is left over and coupled with the $1.24 million announced this week, Evans said it makes up approximately 50 per cent of the anticipated COVID-19 shortfall for 2021, leaving approximately $4.5 million still needed.
Evans added that there are hopes additional government funding will be made available to municipalities to help offset costs.
“We are waiting to hear about potential safe restart funding with regard to the transit stream,” she said. “We are waiting to hear more from the Ministry of Transportation with regard to that.”
Of the $9.4 million in phase one of the safe restart funding, $3.1 was to go toward supporting transit operations, which was experiencing a loss of between $400,000 and $500,000 a month of lost revenue in the early stages of the pandemic.
If there is still a need, additional funding can be made available by the March 31, 2021 deadline.
“We know transit pressures will continue beyond March,” Evans said. “They certainly make up a significant portion of it.”
City council will be deliberating the proposed 2021 budget next month, where additional options will be provided to help offset the costs associated with COVID-19.
“In advance of budget deliberations, council will be provided with a list of options and recommendations of temporary one time reductions in 2021, as well as the opportunity to use the stabilization reserve fund that is available to reduce and cover the remaining pressures we are anticipating,” Evans said.
“This will ensure that the impact of COVID-19 on the budget next year will not have an impact to the tax levy as directed by council.”