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Mayor Tory announces economic task force to aid city in wake of coronavirus outbreak

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WATCH ABOVE: Health officials spoke on Sunday saying the window to get ahead of COVID-19 and mitigate the spread is narrowing. Provinces across Canada have reacted by closing schools, daycares and recreation areas. Morganne Campbells breaks down the country’s response to the virus as the number of confirmed cases grow. – Mar 15, 2020

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced an economic task force to aid the city in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak on Monday.

Entitled the “Mayor’s Economic Support and Recovery Task Force,” a press release issued Monday said it is was created to “help protect Toronto’s economic success in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Toronto city councillor calls for postponement of commercial property taxes

“These are unprecedented times and we must take unprecedented action to help our residents and our economy now and in the future,” Tory said. “I’m confident we will get through the economic impact of this pandemic by listening to people and doing the smart, responsible things we can do to help them.”

Tory will be holding conference calls with Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson and Budget Chief Gary Crawford along with other “key stakeholders” to determine what will be best for the city and its businesses.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario reports 42 new COVID-19 cases, provincial total rises to 145

The first meeting set for Monday is with the hospitality and film sectors. Other meetings will include faith and community leaders, BIAS, universities, social services and not-for-profits, organized labour, tech and big business.

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“The Task Force will identify immediate and longer-term economic recovery strategies for residents and businesses, with a focus on supporting those segments of the economy that are most strongly impacted by COVID-19, such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment,” the statement said.

“I am confident that the work this task force will undertake ensures we are listening to all areas of our city’s economy that are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and that we find solutions to protect Toronto’s economic success,” said Crawford.

Five immediate measures have already been set:

  1. A grace period is implemented for tax and other City of Toronto payments for businesses (payment and payment penalties) first for 30 days as of March 16, 2020.
  2. City employees will be protected from layoffs this month due to the cancellation of City programs. The City is committed to paying for shifts that were planned for City-run daycares, museums, and recreation centres.
  3. A substantial contingency fund to support businesses and affected groups, based on the consultations we undertake to determine the need and scale will be created.
  4. Entry into the EI System for those impacted by the pandemic will be facilitated. The City will work with companies and employees to ensure they are fully aware of how to apply for their rights under employment insurance.
  5. The City’s small business advisory services to help businesses as they plan to recover from impact will be expanded.

Tory will also be asking the federal and provincial government to waive any fees incurred by small businesses who were unable to file HST returns on time.

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“I want every resident and every business in this city to know that your Mayor and your City government have your back,” Tory said.

As of Sunday, Ontario had 145 cases of coronavirus in the province, five of which have been resolved.

Toronto has seen an unprecedented amount of closures in the wake of the pandemic, including all publicly-funded schools and licensed childcare centres, in an effort to curve the spread of the virus.