For those who want to stay right up to date with what’s happening in the City on COVID-19, please join me daily on the City of Victoria’s Facebook page at 2:30pm. And please share this link and information with your friends and neighbours. We’re getting lots of emails with lots of questions and we’ll do our best to answer them and keep you and the media up to date with these live daily updates. I’ll also post the videos here from now on. This video is my address from Thursday. We’ll be back Friday at 2:30pm.
News from the federal government
A few weeks back, myself and other community and business leaders wrote this piece in the Times Colonist asking for rent relief for businesses. Many businesses were directed to close to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to reduce the burden on our health-care system. Many others have done so voluntarily. We acknowledged their sacrifice.
This morning the Prime Minister announced a plan to help businesses pay rents for April, May and June. He said that plan will be worked out with the Premiers across the country, as rent issues fall under provincial jurisdiction. This is fantastic news. It is heartening to hear our call answered and our businesses supported.
Today, the federal government also announced that their business loan program, which offers businesses a loan of up to $40,000, will now be available to businesses with payrolls worth between $20,000 and $1.5 million. We know this will help Victoria businesses because we’ve had emails from businesses who didn’t previously qualify that now do. More good news!
News from the provincial government
Today the Province announced significant measures to support both businesses and local governments. For commercial and industrial properties, the Province further reduced the school tax rate and delayed the penalty date for payment of property taxes until October 1st, which means that most commercial property owners won’t pay their taxes until October 1st.
For municipalities, changing the due date for school taxes until the end of the year is welcome. For Victoria the extension of the commercial property tax extension is a little more complicated. Almost 50% of our tax base is commercial. Deferring the penalty date to October means we’ll need to manage our cash flow a little bit differently. But we are all in this together and because this is a positive announcement for businesses, we are okay to do whatever is necessary to make this work.
We remain hopeful that further announcements will be made to reinstate the Province’s financial hardship deferment program for residential taxpayers Such a program would provide significant relief to those in our community who are suffering hardship as a result of the pandemic.
News from the City
Today Council passed two motions to further address support for vulnerable communities in the midst of COVID-19. First, Council has asked me to write to the Province requesting they use their emergency powers under the Emergency Program Act to requisition hotel and motel rooms in the Capital Region for all unhoused people and to provide the health, mental health and addictions support for people moving in.
I have said many times that we all need to be able to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice around physical distancing, hand washing, and staying at home if we are able. If you don’t have a home, this becomes impossible.
Council also passed a motion to allocate a grant of up to $50,000, from previously approved COVID19 response funds, toward emergency outreach services for vulnerable populations, to be allocated among organizations currently providing mobile outreach services in Victoria.
Starting tomorrow the City is implementing additional measures to ensure residents can still enjoy parks and open spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. The parking area off Foul Bay Road and Crescent Road, serving Gonzales Beach Park, will be open to service and emergency vehicles only. The public washroom next the parking area remains open. People have been gathering on Gonzales beach need to limit this for now.
Physical distancing measures in Beacon Hill Park will continue on weekends only. Additionally, in response to requests from residents, we’ll put new signage in narrow pathway areas to remind residents to allow others the space they need to remain safe and follow health advice. And we’ll work with the Township of Esquimalt staff to ensure a coordinated approach in border areas.
We’ve received great feedback about our Recreation ambassadors, who are out in parks to engage with residents about recreation facility closures and to remind people about physical distancing. We continue to examine other opportunities to improve physical distancing while allowing our residents to still get outside and enjoy the nice weather we’ve been having.
News from the community
We’ve been talking a lot over the past many weeks about programs and resources for adults, but this is also a really difficult time for a lot of young people who are coping with having their routines turned upside down and anxieties and fears around this challenging time.
I want to share a resource put together by Victoria’s Stigma Free Society – A COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit. This is an amazing, comprehensive resource. There’s a Youth Corner for grades 4-6 and a Teens Corner, for grades 7-12. There are videos, stories, activities, and also resources for parents. A huge thanks to the Stigma Free Society for putting this together. You can check it out here.
I also want to let you know that Foundry services continue online. The Foundry Victoria, which offers young people 12-24 access to mental health and substance use support, primary care, peer support and social services, is now offering virtual drop-in counselling for young people ages 12-24 and their families. To access this service, call 1-833-FØUNDRY (yes, that’s FØUNDRY with a zero! or 1-833-308-6379) to book an appointment. Sessions are available through chat, voice-only calls or video calls.
I’m grateful to both of these programs for providing support to youth through this pandemic so that they know that they are not alone.