Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley.
Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley was unequivocal in his praise to the Ford government’s announcement last week providing Niagara’s municipalities an additional $16.5 million in COVID-19 support.
In total, Niagara is slated to receive $16,486,587 and of the funding announced, the top three recipients were the Niagara Region, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls having received $6.6 million, $2.9 million, and $1.9 million respectively.
“On behalf of the entire Niagara Region, I am pleased to see the announcement of additional financial support coming from our partners at the provincial government,” said Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley. “Covid-19 has easily been the most disruptive event to impact municipal operations in the last half century and without the ongoing support of the province we would be in dire straits.”
“I appreciate the Province of Ontario continuing to recognize the important role municipalities play in the lives of residents and providing the financial relief necessary to ensure our critical programs and services can continue to be offered.”
This money is in addition to an earlier $28 million bailout the Ford government sent to the Region and Niagara’s 12 municipal governments in August.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has enflamed much of the local business community as of late with the mandated closures and the Niagara Region’s public health department’s additional restrictions on the restaurant sector. Many business owners have expressed concerns that local municipal governments will significantly increase property tax rates as a result of the pandemic.
Provincial funding aid has allowed local municipalities to keep tax increases around 2-3% in 2021 which has softened some of those fears. For instance, the Niagara Region approved a1.8% increase for its 2021 budget, St. Catharines 1.86%, Niagara Falls 1.7%, and Fort Erie 0.32%. Other municipalities in Niagara hovered around a 2-3% increase for 2021.
The Ford government and local Niagara-West MPP Sam Oosterhoff recognize their role to assist municipalities with the impacts and costs of COVID-19.
“Our government continues to adapt and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it evolves, and we know our municipal partners are on the front lines of this effort – providing the critical services people depend on every day,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“We know the global pandemic has created significant financial challenges for communities across the province. That’s why we have been there with the support from the very beginning. I encourage our federal partners to step forward with additional investments as all three [levels of] governments work together to protect people’s health and jobs,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board.
“Local municipalities have experienced serious financial challenges in the wake of COVID-19 and our government recognizes the need to support the delivery of critical local services and ongoing projects across Ontario and in Niagara.”
The additional funding announced last week is part of the province’s $500 million investment to help ensure the stability of Ontario’s 444 municipalities as they plan for the year ahead. The funding is being prioritized to help municipalities hardest hit by the pandemic and can be used for things like personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and by-law enforcement.
It is expected that the Ford government will provide its next update on Ontario’s finances and their plan to continue the fight against COVID-19 in the 2021 Budget, to be delivered no later than March 31, 2021.
2021 Provincial COVID-19 recovery funding amounts for municipalities in Niagara include:
|Town of Fort Erie||$774,113|
|Town of Grimsby||$553,771|
|Town of Lincoln||$458,968|
|City of Niagara Falls||$1,887,048|
|Regional Municipality of Niagara||$6,594,635|
|Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake||$427,007|
|Town of Pelham||$347,890|
|City of Port Colborne||$505,536|
|City of St. Catharines||$2,941,748|
|City of Thorold||$421,958|
|Township of Wainfleet||$158,381|
|City of Welland||$1,147,788|
|Township of West Lincoln||$267,744|