#NovaScotiaRemembers and We Remember With You

For those who want to stay 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. This video is my address from Friday. We’ll be back Monday at 2:30pm.

Tonight a virtual vigil took place in honour of the tragedy in Nova Scotia earlier this week. Put together by volunteers, the vigil featured community leaders, musicians, and others paying tribute to those who lost their lives and people in the whole province who are hurting so much right now.

The vigil, called Nova Scotia Remembers, was hosted through the Colchester Supporting our Communities Facebook group and was also broadcast widely on news networks. In case you missed it, you can catch it here.

One of the most moving moments of the vigil is when Nathalie MacMaster played a duet with a recorded performance by 17-year-old, Emily Tuck, who was one of the victims. You can watch that moving performance here.

News from the federal government

Today the Prime Minister announced that the federal government has reached an agreement in principle with all provinces and territories to implement the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. This program will lower rent by 75 per cent for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. This is a measure that myself and Council and many community and business leaders have been pushing for, and I know so many small business owners are relieved to see this development.

Eligible small business tenants are businesses paying less than $50,000 per month in rent and who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70 per cent drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues. This support will also be available to non-profit and charitable organizations. We’ve been in touch with the federal government today to get more details about how this will work. We will share more information here as we receive it.

We have so many much-loved local businesses here in Victoria. That’s why our Business Hub has remained active throughout this pandemic providing up to date resources for businesses on our Business Hub COVID page.

News from the City

The City of Victoria’s Poet Laureate, John Barton, has brought together local poets Terry Ann Carter, Christine Walde, and Derk Wynand for a virtual reading, called “The Worldliness of Poetry.” Originally planned as a reading to celebrate National Poetry Month at the Greater Victoria Public Library, The Worldliness of Poetry live in person was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until it is possible to reschedule, John invited the three readers to share their work virtually through poems connected to Germany, Portugal, France, and Japan in order to momentarily transcend social distancing and self-isolation.

You can read and listen to the poems right here.

News from the community

We have an update on Think Local First’s SupportLocalYYJ program, supported by VanCity. As a reminder, this program is a central place where you can buy gift certificates to local business for future use.

It is free for businesses to participate. 157 businesses are now taking part, and SupportLocalYYJ is heading to $16,000 in gift certificate purchases. This money is going right into the pockets of local business owners. These gift certificates are anywhere from $10 to $100 and it is amazing the number of businesses that are inspired to keep going when they see the moral and financial support from our community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Government Provides Further Funding to Charitable Sector, Clarifies Wage Subsidy

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 Tuesday. We’ll be back Wednesday at 3:30pm. Note the later time than usual.

News from the federal government

Today there were two more important announcements from the federal government. This morning the Prime Minister announced the Emergency Community Support Fund. $350 million will be allocated to community non-profits working with vulnerable populations, to be disbursed through large organizations like the United Way, Community Foundations of Canada and the Red Cross. These organizations fund established programs in communities across the country, including in Victoria, and can get money quickly into the hands of those who need it.

Today the Prime Minister and Minster Duclos shared more details on the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy. Businesses will be able to apply next Monday, April 27th. In the meantime, business owners can open a business profile on the CRA website so they’ll be ready to go when the application opens. There is also a calculator to help employers determine if they are eligible for the CEWS, who their eligible employees are, and what their overall payroll subsidy will be. This will help businesses plan for the coming weeks and months until the federal payroll subsidy arrives in bank accounts.

News from the City

On Saturday Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that there would be no large gatherings this summer. This means that the City’s usual Canada Day celebrations will not be held. Yet we know that this year is an important year for all Canadians as we struggle through these challenging times together. It’s more important now than ever to come together in new and creative ways.

We’re looking at what we might be able to do in Victoria. The federal government said that they are going to hold national virtual Canada Day celebrations. We partnered with the federal government and the Minister of Canadian Heritage in a national celebration called First Night when Canada turned 150. I’ve written to Minister Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage to see what Ottawa might be planing and how Victoria as a capital city can participate and support this effort.

News from the community

We know that our businesses are facing so many challenges right now due to the impacts of COVID-19. There is also a lot of information out there on programs and benefits from the federal and provincial governments.  There is a lot to navigate, and tough decisions to make.

That’s why next week, Community Micro Lending, with the support of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, is holding two free online COVID-19 “Ask an Expert Sessions” with lawyers, accountants, and human resource professionals. The sessions will be held on Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon of next week. All the information, times, dates and an invite is here. Please share widely with all small business owners you know who might benefit from this great, free service.

I also want to share another exciting and creative way that community members are coming together to mark important events. Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the founding of Earth Day. Creatively United for the Planet has organized a free online community webinar series EarthFest – Creative Solutions for a New World, from 11am to 12:30 pm daily, all week. Visit Creatively United for the Planet for a full lineup of amazing speakers. Check it out and you can also access any past webinars you may have missed.

Federal and Provincial Governments Work Together to Provide Rent Relief to Business – Thank You!

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.

City Gives Downtown Victoria Business Association A Boost in Pandemic

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 Wednesday. We’ll be back Thursday at 2:30pm. 

News from the federal government

This morning the Prime Minister announced that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit will become available to Canadians who have exhausted their Employment Insurance (EI) benefits since January 1st, seasonal workers who can’t find work because of COVID-19 and those who earn up to $1,000 a month.

With these changes, Canadians will now be allowed to collect the CERB even if they still have some earnings, as long as their monthly income does not surpass $1,000. The new rules will likely extend CERB eligibility to an estimated 1.1 million Canadians who are still working but saw their hours drastically reduced amid COVID-19.

News from the City

As I shared last week, we’ve deferred property taxes by a month as part of Council’s suite of relief measures. That would have left the Downtown Victoria Business Association without their annual funding which usually comes in July. So Council has decided this year to help the DVBA out by paying them their levy in July anyway. This is so the organization can continue its important work in supporting local businesses through the pandemic.

The DVBA is supporting their 1,500 business members to ensure they have all the information they may need on emerging programs and resources that can support them in the near term. They are also promoting ways the public can support local businesses by way of online orders, and take-out and delivery options for restaurants.

Currently, the DVBA is partnering with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness to help coordinate volunteers to distribute food at the temporary shelter at Topaz Park to help protect vulnerable populations

The DVBA Clean Team has also stepped up its efforts in helping keep downtown clean, sanitizing and cleaning all transit stops downtown, staying on top of graffiti, and being extra eyes on the street and looking out for downtown businesses now that there are currently few people downtown.

Today during my daily address, Jeff Bray the Executive Director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association joined me. This is some of what he said and the information he shared:

“Today is National Takeout Day. Check out your local restaurant online and order an extra take-out or delivery meal. You can also support local retailers by purchasing online gift cards now, putting much needed revenue into the pockets of businesses to help keep them going.

“You may even want to consider sending an email to your favourite retailer, to let them know you’ll be there for them. This will greatly help with the morale of downtown businesses that have had to let their staff go due to the pandemic.”

He also shared a range of online resources the community can access to support local businesses:

  • Gift cards for local businesses can be purchased online at Support Local Greater Victoria.
  • YYJLocalsForLocalsis a group of community-minded tech and marketing professionals offering pro-bono assistance to local small businesses, restaurants, and bars. Learn more at com.
  • Donate to Boxes of Hope. Every $10 donated provides a warm, healthy meal to someone in need and supports the local restaurant community by keeping staff employed.

The City’s Business Hub staff have compiled a comprehensive list of resources for businesses at victoria.ca/bizresources.

 

City of Victoria Artist in Residence Kathryn Calder Performs Live Concert – From Her Living Room to Yours

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 Wednesday. We’ll be back Thursday at 2:30pm.

With music venues closed and public events postponed due to COVID-19, musicians around the world are finding creative ways to perform and share access to live music. The City of Victoria’s Artist in Residence, Kathryn Calder, is no exception.

Kathryn will live stream a concert from her home in Victoria Friday, April 3 at 7:30 p.m. Tune in to Kathryn’s YouTube channel to watch live. The 30-minute solo set will include a selection of Kathryn’s own songs, as well as a couple of her favourites written by others.

Kathryn Calder was selected as the City’s Artist in Residence in 2019. For the past 15 years, Kathryn has been recording and touring as a vocalist and keyboardist with indie rock group The New Pornographers. She has also released three solo records, five albums with Immaculate Machine, and one album with her latest project, Frontperson.

So as you’re practicing social distancing or isolation, take the opportunity to tune into what is sure to be some great music. Thank you, Kathryn, for doing this!

News from the provincial government

Today, the provincial government announced a three-month credit on BC Hydro bills for individual customers, and a three month payment holiday for businesses. Premier Horgan asks that only people who need to apply for this do so.

News from the community

Today I want to tell you about a new initiative called supportlocalyyj launched this week by Think Local First. It’s a way you can support your favourite local businesses by buying gift cards. As we know, so many local businesses are shut because of emergency provincial health orders.

Any local independent business can join the supportlocalyyj initiative, no cost no membership required. And what’s so great about this is that supportlocalyyj takes on the admin and payment for the businesses. Any gift card value is 100% transferred to the business.

Vancity along with Think Local First is administrating and developed the platform including covering all payment processing costs. Shopify donated the webhosting and page. Each week the cash generated by gift card sales is sent right to the local business.

Please share this with businesses who might want to register. And here’s yet another way for those with the means to support our favourite businesses through this hard time while benefiting ourselves from credit at our favourite stores!

An update has come in from the Boxes of Hope program that is supporting local restaurants and feeding those in need at the same time. I’d like to give a shout out to Aryze, who donated 1000 meals and challenged others in their industry to do the same on Twitter – GMC Projects and Kang and Gill Construction are joining them in donating. Thanks to all, and keep it up!

What Eveliina shared with us on the Facebook live feed

Yesterday Eveliina wrote in about something she’s doing to spread joy in her neighbourhood. She says:

“I live along Fort St and have been periodically starting up my bubble machine during the day, as well as for the 7pm salute, to bring joy to neighbours and those who may be out walking. When the wind is with me they drift right down the street and out of view!”

Thanks Eveliina, that’s such a fun way to create joy with neighbours.

 

 

Now Is Not the Time To Party – Police Called to Nine Gatherings Over Weekend – Stay at Home!

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 keep you and the media up to date with these live daily updates. I’ll also put the videos up here from now on. This video is my address from Monday. We’ll be back Tuesday at 2:30pm.

Chief Constable Del Manak is urging members of our Victoria and Esquimalt communities to continue to follow social and physical distancing orders from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry after officers were called to multiple gatherings over the weekend.

Officers were called to nine noise complaints, including several parties and other gatherings, as well as to a group at Saxe Point Park over the weekend. Officers spoke with some attendees about the risks that violating Dr. Henry’s orders present to those gathering, to their loved ones and to the wider community. These gatherings also present additional, unnecessary risk of COVID-19 exposure to front-line officers responding to these calls.

“We need to do better,” Chief Del Manak said. “The first line of defense against COVID-19 is social and physical distancing. Please, think of the greater good. Think of our officers who are attending these calls. Think of the grocery clerks, the cleaners, the nurses, the doctors, the care workers and all the other front-line and essential service workers who cannot stay home, but who are putting themselves at risk for others. Please, stay home.”

News from the federal and provincial governments

This morning the Prime Minister announced more information regarding the wage subsidy for business and non-profits. Some important details: All businesses are eligible if business revenue has decreased by at least 30% due to COVID19; no business is too small to be eligible; the federal government will provide 75% of salary on the first $58,700 an employee earns; the program is retroactive to March 15.

On Friday, the provincial government announced new funding for arts and culture. They have developed a $3-million Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement which will be administered by the BC Arts Council. Those eligible will receive a supplement of up to $15,000 in early April to help them pay their bills.

And starting in April 2020, the BC Arts Council will provide eligible organizations a 50% advance on 2020-21 funding to help with cash flow. They are also extending application deadlines, relaxing reporting requirements and allowing organizations to use funding to cover immediate needs like rent and utilities.

This is so important to Victoria because our arts and culture events are a key part of what makes Victoria so amazing, vibrant and alive. AND they’re a key economic driver.

Small business, non-profits, and arts and culture are all areas that Council has been advocating for relief for, and I’d like to thank the federal and provincial governments for providing assistance to these important sectors in this challenging time.

News from the City

I’d like to address some of the questions that came in on Friday’s Facebook live about Topaz Park so first I’ll refresh you on what Island Health, BC Housing, the City, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness and the Dandelion Society are working on together.

The Phase One shelter and service provision sites that are being put into place at Topaz and Royal Athletic Parks are temporary stopgap measures. These are needed to ensure social distancing is possible. The current situation on Pandora St. does not facilitate people following Dr Bonnie Henry’s orders.

The temporary park sites were chosen due to proximity to washrooms, appropriate space for social distancing, and because some, in the case of Topaz Park, people were already sheltering there. Phase Two, which will be underway as soon as possible, will move people to indoor shelters. And it’s already started. Over the weekend, 27 of the first 35 motel rooms were filled with people who were sleeping outdoors. Forty more motel rooms have been identified and social service providers will be out in the community identifying people who would be suitable to move in

It’s important to note that the Province is securing motel rooms across the island and around the Province. And I know that all mayors on the island are working hard with BC Housing and Island Health to provide the supports that people need in their own communities.

News from the community

I’ve been encouraging everyone to participate in the 7pm cheering for health care workers. And it’s working – last night the whole string of backyards along our street were out there banging pots and pans, and waving to each other as well. It feels like a good way to stay connected!

And today I learned of another way we can thank our local health care workers, and that’s the Hospital Heroes of Victoria campaign from the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. You can send a personal message to our frontline workers, our hospital heroes right here. This is a simple, heartfelt way you can boost the spirits of healthcare workers.

Feedback from the community

A resident got in touch after Friday’s address asking me to please remind everyone to help those who are vision impaired in our community; they can’t see appropriate social distances, so please be observant and move away. She wrote:

 “I’m just talking with a friend who is vision impaired with an assist dog. They are conscientious. They are adhering to the CoVid 19 safety guidelines. Today while walking the Dallas Road walkway, they did their best to HEAR where people were and to keep away from them. Yet, some people did not keep their distance from them and seemed unconcerned and indifferent. When they reminded them of the two metre distance, they didn’t care. In some cases, people were hostile when reminded.

“We think it is important for everyone to obey the physical distance rule. And, if everyone did so, then my friend could go for a CoVid safe walk which is important for their mental and physical health.”

We’re all learning lots about each other’s needs and points of view in this health emergency. Let’s keep each other’s needs in mind.

Please, let’s look after each other. And please continue to write to me in the comments or to mayor@victoria.ca to tell me what you’re seeing in our community. I’d love to share more of your stories about what you are doing to keep social connection while physically distancing.

Today Dr. Bonnie Henry told us that the next two weeks are our watershed moment. The things we are already doing are making a difference. But we are not through the storm yet, we have not reached our peak in cases.

She thanked people for taking the measures she recommends seriously – and I want to do the same – the health of our city and our community depends on it. Keep up those social distancing measure. Don’t gather in small groups inside. Keep your distances. Don’t play basketball, you could take something home and infect your parents or grandparents. Stay at home. And stay connected with your community and with the people you love! The next two weeks are make or break. Together, we’ve got this!

 

Boxes of Hope – Keep Restaurant Staff Employed and Feed Someone Who’s Hungry

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 keep you and the media up to date with these live daily updates. I’ll also put the videos up here from now on. This video is my address from Friday. We’ll be back Monday at 2:30pm.

This morning, for the first time in a long time, 21 people woke up inside, in hotel rooms rented through Emergency Management BC. And when they did, there was a warm meal waiting for them from the Boxes of Hope Program.

I love this program and the innovative partnerships through which it was created. In the face of unprecedented challenges to their own businesses, several local Victoria restaurants, the Jawl Family Foundation, the Coalition to End Homelessness and the Downtown Victoria Business Association are pulling together to help others in need and to keep local restaurant kitchens open. And we need your help.

For every $10 you donate here you will be providing a warm healthy meal to someone in need, AND supporting our local restaurant community and helping to keep restaurant staff employed. We know there are many people in our community hit hard right now and who don’t have any funds to spare. We also know there are others who do. For those who can, please help us nourish Victorians one meal at a time.

Federal government news

On Friday the Prime Minister announced a new $40,000 loan for small business, interest free for one year, and up to $10,000 will be forgivable in some cases. In order to qualify, a business’s payroll must be between $50,000 and $1 million in 2019. This will help all businesses in Victoria, even really small ones – we’re so grateful to see this wide net cast. A lot of our businesses in Victoria are very small business. This loan also applies to non-profits of the same size.

Trudeau also announced a subsidy to cover 75% of wages for qualifying small and media businesses – this is up from the previously announced 10%. It’s great to see that the federal government is responsive to changing needs and to the advocacy of our very own Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Victoria Business Association and Destination Greater Victoria.

GST and HST payments as well as duties for small and medium sized businesses have been deferred to June. The federal government will announce more details of new small business plan on Monday.

Provincial government news

On Thursday the provincial government announced expanded BC 211 services. If you are a senior, you can call 211 to be matched with a service or with a volunteer who can help you get groceries, medications, and stay connected. If there is a senior in your life that could benefit from this service, please pass on this new 211 information line. If you want to volunteer to help with these efforts you can call 211 or visit the BC 211 website.

On Friday Dr. Bonnie Henry told us if we keep following her orders, keep up the social distancing measures, stay at home, wash our hands, we’ll flatten the curve. She is cautiously optimistic. Victorians, let’s make her proud! Keep going! What we’re doing is working. I know it’s hard, but we’re flattening curve.

News from the City

Effective immediately, all Development and Building Permit Applications for the City of Victoria can now be accepted online. I am so impressed by our planning staff department for making this transition so quickly. This includes rezonings, development permit, heritage alteration permit, temporary use permit, and variance applications as well as building, plumbing, electrical and sign permit applications. More information here. This online processing of application will not only help building in the city continue, it will also help tradespeople to keep their jobs.

Feedback from you!

I received an e-mail from a community member who has been watching my daily updates. She wrote in response to the 7pm challenge to get out there and cheer for our front-line workers every night. She says:

“Thank you for the challenge at 7 PM every night to make a ruckus in tribute of our Frontline workers. I live on Foul Bay Road. Tonight is the second night I went out and both nights I have heard at least one other home joining me in making noise. (All The passerby’s think I am a nut case). I have faith in all of us – our greater community in the days to come.

If I was not on long term disability, I would be also one of those front-line workers so I am going outside of my door every night at seven in tribute to my colleagues. I would give anything to be able to be working right now.”

Thanks for writing in and sharing your story!

Please do get outside at 7pm and keep cheering on all our front line workers. Please share your stories with us on the Facebook video where our daily video is posted. And please look after each other, and stay connected over the weekend.

 

City Secures 35 Motel Rooms for Homeless in Pandemic – Small Start, Long Way to Go

So sorry to everyone who was tuned in at 3:30 today; Facebook broke and we couldn’t get the livestream connected. Bonus is the video is now on Facebook AND Youtube so I’ve linked it here for easy viewing. Tomorrow and beyond we’ll be doing the daily Facebook Live at 2:30pm here on the City’s Facebook page. We’ve moved the daily address to 2:30 to make it easier for TV media to tune in and then get their stories ready for the 5:00pm news. We rely on the media to help get the information and the stories out, and we thank them for doing so!

News from the province

Under the Emergency Program Act, Minister Farnworth today issued a series of ministerial orders to ensure a co-ordinated response to COVID-19 across all levels of government for the duration of the provincial emergency. These include:

    • Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution.
    • Banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies; and restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.
    • Enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings
    • Ensuring all passenger and car-ferry services provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.
    • Making it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters – the province can requisition any public facilities for these needs.
    • Suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and co-ordinating potential use of local publicly owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
    • Issuing a new order with respect to people who use substances and the provision of a safe supply to protect their health. Minister Dix called this a necessary public health practice given the two public health emergencies we are facing, the opioid crisis and the COVID pandemic.

What this means for the City is that our debate on declaring a local state of emergency was suspended, and we continue to work with the province on other aspects of emergency response.

News from the City

Today Council passed a motion to strongly advocate to the Province on behalf of small businesses and non-profits which have been affected by the pandemic in Victoria. We’re asking for rent relief and halting evictions during the state of emergency. April 1st is coming as quickly for small businesses with leases as it is for residential tenants. Council appreciates the actions the Province took to provide rent relief to tenants, which also puts money into the hands of landlords. We hope to see swift action from the Province to support small businesses in BC. In Victoria, these businesses are the lifeblood of our community.

Continuing to advance work on sheltering, the City has secured 35 motel rooms for people who are currently homeless. The rooms will be funded through Emergency Management BC (EMBC). Thanks to our hard working Emergency Operations Centre staff who secured these rooms. We’re working with the Coalition to End Homelessness and the Coordinated Assessment and Access process to get people inside as soon as possible. This is just the tip of the iceberg and there is much more to do. BC Housing is working hard to secure further rooms and indoor sheltering locations.

The people going to the motel rooms booked by the City through EMBC are healthy and not exhibiting symptoms they are just experiencing homelessness right now. This is part of the overall coordinated response to provincial direction for social distancing for everyone.

Yesterday we talked about some of the interim shelter options in parks that Island Health, BC Housing, the City, and service providers are working on. We’re guided in this effort by  Island Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Richard Stanwick, who has been closely involved in this process.

“In these extraordinary times extraordinary measures will be required to slow the transmission of Covid-19, said Dr. Stanwick. “These efforts will help enable our health care system to prepare for and to respond to the surge of cases expected with this pandemic. Some measures will be for the duration of the pandemic while others will be for staging prior to another measure. The use of our parks to improve physical distancing is one of these measures. Island Health is working with the Mayor, BC Housing and other community partners to identify additional approaches and methods to improve social distancing.”

This is a fast developing situation, and urgent response is needed. Things are changing daily, and we are working from the direct advice of health care professionals. In order to maximize efficiency and to get sites open as soon as possible we are now focusing on establishing two temporary outdoor sites – Topaz Park and Royal Athletic Park, not Beacon Hill Park at this time.

Indoor shelter options are coming soon. I’ve been asked over the last couple of days about self-isolation beds for people without homes. I’m pleased to say that Island Health has identified beds for members of the street community who may present as symptomatic.

Community feedback

After my daily Facebook live yesterday, we received an e-mail from a wheelchair user regarding the additional health risk at this time for wheelchair users caused by people spitting on the ground. Please don’t spit on the ground! It’s more important than ever to keep hands and wheels clean. Also, please do be aware that everyone is trying to practice social distancing. Wheelchair users cannot step off a sidewalk to provide distance. Please do be aware of others around you. Let’s try to keep everyone in our community well and safe.

 

Province Unveils COVID-19 Action Plan, City and Partners Take Steps Together to Address Health Needs of Unsheltered

Horgan-James
BC Government Photo

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 3:30pm. 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 keep you and the media up to date with these live daily updates. Here’s some of what I shared today. And more detailed information below from the Provincial Government’s important press conference.

We’re really encouraged to see the additional supports coming out from the Province this afternoon. Especially those supports for small businesses and people that work for them. And we’re  really happy to hear that more supports will be coming for renters, to be announced by the province on Wednesday. Premier John Horgan said today that no individual will be evicted due to COVID – 19. This is something that Council is very concerned about and I’m happy to see the Province take leadership. We hope the Province will do everything in their power to support renters – which comprise well over half of Victoria’s population.

We’re also happy to see the Province providing $500 million in tax deferrals. And creating a $1.5 billion recovery fund. At the beginning of an economic crisis is a good time to begin to prepare for recovery. I appreciate the Province’s foresight in this regard.

As for what the City is doing,  the City’s emergency planning protocol has kicked in, and our Emergency Operations Centre is up and running. This allows us to work closely with Emergency Operations BC, and respond to emerging needs. It also means the City can be reimbursed by the Province for expenses incurred to respond to the emergency.

We have closed all parks facilities, playgrounds in addition to skate and bike parks, basketball & tennis courts, sports fields, outdoor gyms.

The City has convened Island Health, BC Housing, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, the Dandelion Society and other local service agencies to identify and implement measures to help protect people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. These organizations will have additional supports for vulnerable populations including more places for people to shelter and self-isolate.

These measures include allowing temporary shelters at Beacon Hill Park and Topaz Park, where residents can access up to date health information, meals, washrooms and handwashing stations. BC Housing is working with Island Health to use the Royal Athletic Park as an outdoor shelter for the city’s most vulnerable residents. This location allows for social distancing measures. The Province has the power, under the provincial state of emergency, to use city facilities for emergency measures. In the coming days and weeks we may see more of this, as we work together to look after our residents.

Here is a powerful statement from Jim Swanson, General Manager of the Victoria Harbourcats who are the City’s main tenant at Royal Athletic Park. His response choked me up when I read it today. This is an example of true leadership:

“The Covid-19 pandemic is the most glaring example in history that we all, globally, need to stand together, and act together.

The Victoria HarbourCats fully support the measures so far being put in place by the Province of B.C., led by Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix. The HarbourCats also support the new development that areas inside Royal Athletic Park will be used by the City of Victoria to create appropriate social distancing for the city’s homeless population, with the 900 block of Pandora becoming a problem area for us all to maintain space and give the best chance of everyone coming out of this healthy.

This is bigger than any of us individually, as people or as companies or government departments. Working with Mayor Helps, and with key City staff, this is the right thing for all to do. We all must do our part to flatten the curve, so this can have the least impact on life and health, and allow us to recover sooner.

Baseball takes a back seat right now, that’s for sure — and let’s focus on the HarbourCats only after we focus on each other. Our season doesn’t arrive until June, we have the luxury of time, let’s deal with now and worry about later, later.

When it’s time to play baseball, we’ll play baseball. When we’re able to gather again, and cross borders, we’ll play. Until then, the people in our organization will be dedicated to being part of the solution.”

In addition to the three temporary outdoor sheltering sites, 938 Mason Street, the old Girl Guides building, which BC Housing recently purchased, will be temporarily used as a triaging and testing site for members of the homeless community. Island Health is still working out all the details.

Moving forward – because we can’t have people living in tents for four to six months in a health emergency –  the City and our partners are exploring indoor options for residents to be assigned a bed in addition to essential services this could include BC Housing providing hotel rooms, and/or using other public facilities to turn into temporary indoor sheltering areas.

We will update you on plans at details as they become available on the City’s Facebook page at 3:30pm every day. Please tune in!

Further Details on Provincial Press Conference

Premier Horgan

  • Action Plan is focused on: Protecting British Columbians, direct immediate economic relief, and planning/funding for long-term recovery.
  • $5 billion dollar plan for British Columbians and businesses. This is a starting point and there will be more support if needed.


Minister James

  • $1.7 billion in investments for critical services – to be allocated in weeks and months ahead as needed (including healthcare, shelters, rental support programs, extra disability assistance, and support for individuals/families and businesses).
    • $1.1. billion specifically for workers and families: Emergency Benefit for workers will provide a 1 time payment of $1000 dollar to anyone who cannot work because of COVID-19. This is a first step – other measures may be needed later. Even those not eligible for EI can claim the payment.
  • An enhanced BC climate action tax payment will occur in July. Need to file taxes to determine eligibility, in order to receive payment.
  • Looking at details for how to support renters – including increased support for seniors and the working poor. Requesting that landlords halt evictions.
    • $50 million in added funding for United Way.
  • As of March 30, all student loan payments will be paused until September 30.
  • BC Hydro will work with customers to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payments without penalty. ICBC will offer more drivers license renewals online or on the phone and defer payments for 90 days with no penalty.
  • Deferring most Provincial tax filing deadlines (municipal and regional taxes, Provincial tax, carbon tax, and several others) until September 30
  • Delaying increase to carbon tax indefinitely, will review by September 30.
  • Establishing a recovery task force that will include members from business and labour. Have set aside $1.5 billion dollars for longer-term recovery – will be deployed when signs of recovery are apparent.

 

Q&A – Select Questions

  • What supports are there for renters and mortgage-payers? Is there a ban on all evictions in B.C.?
    • Premier Horgan: Nobody will lose their apartment because of COVID-19 (evictions for other reasons could occur). Further details on support for renters will be publicized on Wednesday. Joint Federal-Provincial support for mortgages are in place. We are working on common language for program delivery.
  • Is this package in addition to the Provincial budget and where is the deficit projection at?
    • Minister James: Yes, this spending is in addition to the budget – will be enacted by the legislation being passed today. Deficit will be impacted by COVID-19 spending undoubtedly. Right now we are focused on dealing with immediate impacts, but we will have a broader fiscal update in late summer/early fall.
  • How fast can you get the application process set up for COVID-19 funding and when will the money flow to citizens?
    • Minister James: We will get everything set up by May. The application process will be streamlined and as simple as possible.
  • Should small businesses stay open with bare bones staff or close completely and lay-off people so that they can collect EI?
    • Premier Horgan: It is a tough call. We’ve put in place as many incentives and supports as possible for small businesses, but each business needs to make their own call. I realize that is an imperfect message, and I sympathize with the predicament of these business owners. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide more support as needed.
  • Quebec and Ontario are going to a full shutdown of all non-essential services tomorrow. Are you considering that?
    • Premier Horgan: I’m considering it on some level, of course. But it’s easy to say “lockdown” or “shutdown”, but the lists of exceptions you end up seeing in those situations (i.e. in California) look similar to the limitations that we already have in place in B.C. I don’t want to create confusion by changing our terminology. We are taking a science-based approach to all this and also being mindful of the economy as well.
  • Do you see a need for municipalities or the Federal government to declare states of emergency to increase enforcement of social distancing?
    • Premier Horgan: They can do so if they want, but we have all the powers we need at the Provincial level to enforce social distancing. People need to do the right thing here.
  • How are you considering the impact of COVID-19 on other crises, like opioids abuse and homelessness?
    • Premier Horgan: I would also expand that to peoples mental health. We are putting more resources online.
  • Recession is virtually a given at this point? What are your projections saying?
    • Minister James: Right now we are focused on dealing with immediate impacts, but we will have a broader fiscal update in late summer/early fall – it’s too difficult to project at this point. That is also why we are setting aside funding for long-term recovery.

 

Laid Off and Looking For Work? Chamber Job Board Lists Employers Looking For Workers

Heart Pharmacy, Save on Foods, Island Health, Thrifty Foods, London Drugs – these are just some of the companies hiring right now.

Today the Chamber of Commerce repurposed their Jobs Board to serve the community. The Jobs Board connects employers looking for workers with workers affected by businesses that have closed in response to the shutdown of travel and the need for social distancing as mandated by government in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

After mandated restaurant closures today (now take out and delivery only) we know there will be more people looking for work. Pharmacies, grocery stores, island health and others are hiring right now. At time of this writing there are 37 jobs listed on the Jobs Board and more to come.

“There has been a lot of attention focused on layoffs but we’re also hearing from many employers who are struggling to fill positions in their organizations,” Chamber CEO Catherine Holt said. “The Chamber continues to call on all levels of government to provide immediate relief for businesses affected during this ongoing crisis. We also will do everything we can to continue connecting people to help sustain our economy and ensure all of us can recover quickly as soon as it is possible to do so.”

Workers in the hospitality industry have many transferable skills that are in demand during these extraordinary times. We need healthy people to help keep our grocery stores and pharmacies stocked and supplied, drivers to deliver goods to customers, cleaners to ensure our care homes and hospitals are safe. We are also seeing demand for people to assist accountants and financial institutions as they themselves try to help process a huge increase to their workload.

To access the Job Board as an employer in need of employees or as a worker able to fill a need, head here. At this time, employers are able to post at no charge by using the code SUPPORTYYJ.

Please share this post widely with anyone who needs a job or anyone who has a job to offer.