Canada Emergency Response Benefit – Applications Now Open

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 Monday We’ll be back Tuesday at 2:30pm.

Federal government updates

The application process for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is now open. In order to manage the volume of applications through the week, the system is open today only to those born in January, February, or March.

A reminder about eligibility: If you have already applied for EI, you do not need to additionally apply for the Emergency Response Benefit.

The CERB will support Canadians who have stopped working because of COVID-19 by providing $500 a week for up to 16 weeks. Some examples of support to workers provided by the CERB include:

  • Workers, including those who are self-employed, who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support;
  • Workers who have lost their employment, as well as workers who are sick, quarantined or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • Working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures; and
  • Workers who are still employed, but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.

Head here to apply.

Today Marc Garneau the Federal Transporation minister, announced new measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on commercial passenger vessels and ferries.

As of today some of the mandatory requirements include implementing alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among passengers on board their vessels, such as keeping people in their vehicles, when feasible or enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.

In addition to these measures, Transport Canada is issuing guidelines to ferry operators respecting health screening for all passengers before boarding to better protect their employees and passengers. These guidelines are based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The reminder for all of us is to keep traveling on ferries only when it’s essential.

BC Transit

I also want to bring you an update from BC Transit. BC Transit will be extending rear door boarding until at least April 30th . This will enhance physical distancing measures and safeguards transit drivers. This also means that fares will not be collected at this time. For passengers with accessibility needs, the front door and ramp are still available.

News from the City

Today we have nothing new to announce today but I want to clarify some of the measures we announced last week and tell you more about what’s coming this week.

Last week council announce an expanded Growing in the City program. There have been some questions about this program. I’d like to share some facts that help put it into context.

Our Parks staff will be growing vegetable plant starts and distributing them through the Urban Food Table and the community centre network to get them into the hands of people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford vegetable starts this year.

During the Depression and World War Two, Victoria City Council took similar actions. In the Depression, Parks workers grew thousands of pounds of potatoes in Beacon Hill Park and donated them to the Old Men’s and Old Women’s homes. In World War Two parks workers were involved in the Victory Garden movement.

Additionally, while the Provincial government is doing a good job with respect to the supply chain and grocery store shelves are relatively well stocked,  we don’t know how long this will go on so it’s important to be prepared. The expanded Growing in the City initiative is the City doing its small part.

There have also questions about why we did this before bigger measures or measures to support small business.

It’s easy to give staff direction to plant vegetables. It’s more difficult to cut millions of dollars from the City’s budget to grapple with falling revenues, trying to keep the tax increase as low as possible, preferably at zero, and looking at all measures to support both residential and commercial property taxpayers. This is the difficult work we’ve been doing over the past few weeks, there will be a comprehensive report for Council’s consideration on Thursday.

We know many people are really worried about their financial security. We hear you. That’s why we’re working as hard as we can to bring in measures to provide relief, even though we don’t have as many fiscal tools or powers as the Provincial and federal governments. We’re going to do the very best for you with the powers we have.

We’ve also had questions about how we are going to maintain transparency even while we meet less in person and more on the phone. Transparency is a key element of local government. The City of Victoria was one of first to go to webcasting years ago now. All our meetings are continuing to be web cast and include the public.

We have also created a mechanism for people to make presentations to Council via Youtube or in writing. Last week Council gave staff direction to look at ways to increase electronic participation of residents and committee members in land use decisions. Staff will be reporting back soon.

It’s important to me that we keep land use proposals moving forward – especially for rental housing, affordable housing, and commercial ventures. These will all be critically important to Victoria’s economic recovery. So we’re balancing public participation – including creative ways for people to participate online – with keeping the business of the city moving.

We’ll have more information on all of this soon and I’ll be happy to share it with you all.

News from the community

I heard over the weekend that Current Taxi – Victoria’s first fully electric taxi company – is offering free transportation to work for Island Health hospital employees in appreciation of those working to keep our community safe. Current Taxi is following strict disinfecting and social distancing protocols, and uses app based payment, so no cards or cash is exchanged. For all of the details, download the Current Taxi app. Thanks for doing this for our front line workers, Current Taxi.

And thanks to all of you who are helping out, in big ways, in small ways. I’d love to highlight what you’re doing to help out, or something creative your business is doing, so don’t forget to comment in the feed or drop me an e-mail at mayor@victoria.ca.

As we go into another week, I want to encourage you, as Dr Bonnie Henry says, to stay the course. We are in the thick of this, and if we keep doing what we’re doing, we WILL flatten that curve.

 

Volunteer Victoria Stepping Up Big to Coordinate Helping Hands

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 Friday We’ll be back Monday at 2:30pm.

Today I had Mary Warner, a sign language interpreter arranged by Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre join me. She will now be interpreting my daily addresses. Thank you Mary!

Yesterday we saw the first two COVID related deaths on Vancouver Island. Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of the two people who passed away.

News from the federal government

This morning, the Prime Minister announced $100 million dollars to meet urgent needs food security needs across the country, to improve access to food for Canadians facing social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19. In addition he noted that the Canada child benefit that was scheduled for May will be sent out a month earlier, and GST credits will roll out sooner than scheduled.

News from the provincial government

Yesterday the province announced a new Economic Recovery Task Force to respond to emerging needs and to plan for the longer-term economic recovery that will be needed in the wake of COVID. The task force is made up of cabinet ministers, senior government staff, representatives from business, labour, First Nations, and the non-profit sector. I’m glad to hear that there is a dedicated team looking at this. We also look forward to the addition of some representation from Vancouver Island on the Task Force.

In addition, following yesterday’s announcement on emergency financial aid for students, today the Province is providing an additional $1.5 million to supplement the Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund, which assists Indigenous students who are experiencing an unexpected financial emergency that may affect their ability to finish their studies.

Students who access the emergency funding do not have to repay it. Indigenous students can contact the Indigenous Student Service Centre on campus, which will help with the application process to receive the financial assistance.

News from the City

BC Housing has been working hard this past week along with community partners at the Coalition to End Homelessness. As of today, 102 motel rooms have been filled by people who were previously sleeping outdoors. BC Housing continues to look for more options to move folks inside where they can stay healthy and safe. This is a good first step, but as Dr. Richard Stanwick the Island Health Medical Health officer advised on our daily call today, the goal is to get everyone inside. This is important for the health vulnerable populations and the health of our community.

News from the community

I’d like to tell you today about the important work Volunteer Victoria is doing right now. They have a roster of trained, vetted volunteers working hard in so many ways. They’re helping families who can’t get out with chores and other tasks. They’re helping people get to medical appointments. And they’re helping when people just need someone to talk to.

As we’ve all seen, Victoria is really coming together and if you’re interested in volunteering got to Volunteer Victoria. We’ve heard from so many people with extra time on their hands who want to help out others in their community. Volunteer Victoria is the way to get connected. If you need help, please also go to Volunteer Victoria.

At the end of another long week, and on behalf of myself and Council please be in touch and let us know how you’re doing. Please hang in there. And please, this weekend, reach out to someone who could use a phone call or an e-mail. It is so important to stay connected. It what will get us through.

 

City Scales Up Growing in the City Urban Agriculture Initiative in Response to Community Demand During COVID-19

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 City

In response to many people in our community involved in food growing and urban agriculture, today Council passed a motion brought forward by Councillors Isitt and Loveday to temporarily reallocate some of our resources in the Parks Department to enable staff to contribute to food programs in our region.

By simply scaling up our already existing Growing in the City program, City parks staff will grow between 50,000 and 75,000 food plant starts and work with partners such as the Urban Food Table to distribute them in the community. This is one small thing the City can do to help people in our community with food security during the COVID-19 crisis, without adding any additional costs to our current operations.

We have also directed staff to examine all of the City’s fiscal, legislative and legal powers to support small businesses and jobs, the non-profit sector, arts and culture and the tourism sector. Next Thursday we’ll be re-opening our 2020 budget and looking at what projects and new hires can be deferred to 2021. The City’s revenues are down substantially, primarily at this point because of a significant downward trend in parking revenue.

We are looking at every option to sustain the local economy during the pandemic and recover stronger and more resilient than before.

News from the Province

We know that this crisis has hit students hard, many who have been left in uncertain circumstances mid-term. Today the Province announced a $3.5 million emergency fund for post-secondary students. This supplements existing student emergency financial assistance. This funding will support domestic B.C. students who are experiencing an unexpected financial emergency that may affect their ability to finish their studies and handle expenses. Students in need of this help should speak to their institution’s financial aid office.

Today Minister Simpson, the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction announced of a $300 a month COVID-19 supplement for those on disability and income assistance, and BC seniors supplement. This benefit will start on April cheques. There will also be a temporary exemption on claw-backs for those receiving the $2000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Additionally, those who qualify for bus passes will have the amount of the bus pass added to their cheques for the duration of free transit.

News from the community

I want to talk for a minute about grocery shopping, and say a massive thank you to another group of front line workers – grocery store employees. Country Grocer recently made a post on Facebook which I think sums it all up well. They write: “Try to lessen your shop to once a week. If possible, send only one member of your household to shop. Wash your hands prior to shopping and after. And please, be kind.”

We’ve heard some stories of impatience at the grocery store check out. Even simple things like grocery shopping are stressful for many people right now. Those of us shopping get to get in and then get out. The cashiers who ring our groceries through are there for hours, risking their own health so we can get food. Please show them courtesy and kindness. This just makes it nicer for everyone.

Grocery stores are doing an amazing job of keeping shelves as stocked as they can, keeping stores clean, and providing social distancing guidelines. Please respect the distancing measures stores have put in place. And please don’t stockpile goods.

Feedback from Councillor Thornton-Joe

Many members of council watch the daily feeds and have been sending input and ideas to share. We know that many of you who are able to are working from home, or at home caring for children. You may have seen a post going around social media that was written by a psychologist, ‘Wellness Tips for Quarantine’. Councillor Thornton-Joe wanted me to share this with all of you. It is really valuable, detailed thoughtful  advice. Please read it and share with those who you think need it too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Daily stories of hope and despair amid the crisis

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 2:30pm.

This blog post was originally published here in today’s Times Colonist to support the Rapid Relief Fund.

It is a privilege and a great responsibility to be the mayor of Victoria through this crisis. Over the past few weeks, since the coronavirus has transformed lives the world over, my email inbox has filled up daily with heartfelt stories of despair, and of hope.

There are worried notes from people suffering from job losses and business closures, and an email from a mother with a son living on Pandora Avenue, concerned about her son’s health and asking if we can install handwashing stations. (We have — our public-works team built them themselves.) I’ve heard from seniors who are feeling isolated, or scared to go out for groceries.

There are partners of front-line health-care workers who’ve emailed or called, wondering what they should do, and where their partners can go instead of coming home after working all day, at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

I’ve also received emails and had conversations with service providers and front-line workers who work with people living on the streets. They are worried about their clients who were already vulnerable before this crisis hit. As Dave Obee noted in his piece on the Rapid Relief Fund on Sunday: “When the economy takes a body blow, as it has this month, the people at the low end of the income scale will suffer the most.”

But also flowing into my inbox are stories of hope.

One of the best stories to date is the Boxes of Hope program created by local restaurateurs — led by Chris Jones of Jones BBQ — and the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, with support from the Jawl family and the Downtown Victoria Business Association. I love this program. People in need of meals are being fed, local restaurant kitchens can stay open and staff remain on the payroll.

Last Saturday morning, for the first time in a long time, 21 people woke up inside, in motel rooms rented by the city through Emergency Management B.C. And when they did, there was a warm meal waiting for them from the Boxes of Hope program.

The Rapid Relief Fund is another story of hope. More than $2.7 million has already been raised through generous contributions of Victorians. The first round of funding has already gone out the door to organizations providing help and relief to people who need it.

On Monday, more funding was announced to organizations that meet a wide range of needs, from the Sooke Food Bank to the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness, to the Together Against Poverty Society, to the Soap for Hope Program and more.

These organizations are working around the clock to meet the needs that keep flowing into my email inbox. And now, when I respond to these emails, I’ll be able to give better, more hopeful answers.

This is why I donated $1,000 to the fund within days of it launching. And it’s why I encourage others who can to do the same.

This is not the first time in Victoria that we’ve come together in this way. During my PhD research, I discovered the Citizens Emergency Relief Fund, created in the 1930s in Victoria by a group of community leaders and supported by the local newspapers.

Each day, the papers would publish the names of donors and the amounts they donated; some people gave as little as $5. Each name and donation amount was printed, no matter how much or how little. Every dollar counted.

The similarities to the present day are inspiring. People back then donated generously and helped their neighbours through a hard time. We’re doing the same thing now. And it’s imperative that we act quickly to help keep each other afloat. This will make the crisis shorter and recovery quicker, and it’ll create the kind of resilience that we need going forward as a community.

Thank you to the Times Colonist, the Jawl Foundation, the Victoria Foundation and everyone who has contributed already.

To those who haven’t yet, the opportunity awaits. You can donate here.

 

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.

 

COVID-19 Causing Sewer Problems – Don’t Flush Your Wipes!

Sewage overflows in Halifax. And what NOT to flush!

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.

Each day I’ve been telling you about what Mayor and Council have been doing to support you in the midst of this uncertain time. But I also want you to know that staff are working hard too. Each day, I’m going to highlight the work of a city different department. Today I’d like to start with a shout out and a massive thank you to the City’s Public Works team.

Public works crews are cleaning streets and sidewalks, collecting garbage, maintaining traffic lights, and responding to emergency callouts. They’re busy! If you’d like to do one small thing to help them out, you could move your garbage cans out to the curb on garbage day. It’s a small thing but it will save them time.

Our amazing Public Works team is keeping City services uninterrupted so that you can focus on maintaining health and looking after your families. THANK YOU, Public Works – you are front line workers, you are keeping this City going, and we are all so appreciative.

News from the federal and provincial governments

Today the Prime Minister announced a new federal benefit, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. This is $2000 a month for four months if you have lost your job due to COVID – if you are working on contract, self-employed, if you’re quarantined, at home looking after your children, and otherwise. The portal will be up soon, and those eligible will receive the benefit within ten days of applying. This is in addition to the previously announced $1000 one-time benefit from the Province.

Premier Horgan re-iterated today that no one will lose their housing because of COVID-19. And the Provincial cabinet approved a new support package  – up to $500 per month to renters for four months, which will be delivered through BC Housing’s website. The renters relief payment is for low and moderate income individuals who have seen a reduction in income due to COVID-19.

While the emergency order is in place, the Province is also putting a moratorium on current and future evictions until this period has passed (with the exception of court ordered evictions), and a rent freeze for the duration of the pandemic.

Dr. Bonnie Henry – reiterated her order about gatherings. She didn’t change her official order from groups of 50 but she said we need to not meet even in groups of 10 or 20. Don’t meet in groups! And she called on all community leaders to ensure that gatherings don’t happen. She told us to, “be calm, be kind, be safe.”

News from the City

The City has starting to see clogging at our sanitary sewage pump systems. While I understand that everyone is trying to stay safe and disinfect where possible, we can’t be more clear in our message than this: do not flush any type of wipe down your toilets! Wipes including disinfecting wipes and wipes marked as “flushable” go in your garbage and not in your toilet. Many products advertised as being flushable, are not flushable. (See below a great video from Halifax Water if you’re interested in learning more about why.)

As a city we’re dealing with a pandemic and the last thing we need is backed up sewer systems creating unsanitary situations that could cause the spread of COVID-19 further. Thank you for your help on this.

News from the community

On the small business front, I want to give a shout out to Tiny, a local tech company offering small interest free loans to small businesses in Victoria. Andrew Wilkinson, Tiny’s founder, created Tiny Victoria Small Business Relief Fund is offering loans from $500 to $2,500 to as many recipients as possible. All of the information on this program and lots of other good information is up on the City’s Business Hub site.

Yesterday, I asked you to share in the comments below my daily update on something you’re doing to care for each other in our community. Please keep sharing, and each day I’ll read one out.

Yesterday, Cathy wrote:

“I phoned a friend who is immune compromised and has internet but wasn’t really using it to connect with friends and family. I introduced her to facebook, we talked by video messenger and zoom – she was delighted to know she could see faces, not just hear voices by phone. I sent her some funnies that showed up on my facebook page, and I send her email links to community resources that are important to her. Simple and fun for me; but it meant the world to her.”

Thank you Cathy.

And finally, I mentioned this yesterday, and I’d love to see it spreading even wider – at 7pm each night head outside on your balcony, in your yard, and cheer as loud as you can for our health care workers and for all our front line workers. I’m seeing so many creative cheers – playing an instrument, banging pots – take a video and post it in the comments on the Facebook thread. It’s one small thing we can do to create the joy and solidarity necessary to get us through these difficult times.

 

Everything you ever wanted to know about toilet paper, from Halifax Water.

 

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.