Winnipeg sets up business task force, looks at tax deferrals during COVID-19

The City of Winnipeg will provide an update on its coronavirus response at city hall on Tuesday afternoon. Jeremy Desrochers/Global News

Winnipeg’s mayor has set up a special task force to help city businesses weather COVID-19 including the possibility of deferring property and business taxes.

Brian Bowman announced the Mayor’s COVID-19 Business Task Force Tuesday at a press conference held to update Winnipeggers on the city’s response to the virus.

The task force held its first meeting by videoconference earlier in the day Tuesday.

“As we continue to navigate increasingly unprecedented times, the effects of COVID-19 are placing extreme challenges on our local business community,” Bowman said in a release.

“I’m very concerned with the effect this is having on our businesses and that’s why I’ve created the Mayor’s COVID-19 Business Task Force.”

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The task force brings together leaders from small, medium, and large-sized local businesses, as well as officials from Economic Development Winnipeg, to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 and possible measures to mitigate the effects the virus has on local business, Bowman said.

The mayor said the group discussed immediate actions the city can take at their first meeting Tuesday, including a motion brought forward at last week’s council meeting asking the public service to look into deferring property and business taxes during the pandemic.

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The task force will continue to meet by videoconference in the coming weeks, the mayor said.

Jay Shaw from Winnipeg’s Emergency Measures Centre also gave an update at the press conference.

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He said the city is not implementing rear-loading on Winnipeg Transit buses, a measure that has been discussed to protect drivers from COVID-19.

Instead, he said safety shields around drivers are providing sufficient protection.

Shaw also said city parks will remain open at this time, but signage will be posted reminding Winnipeggers that play structures are not being cleaned or disinfected.

“We recognize the importance of needing to balance social distancing with the positive mental health and well-being aspects of being able to get outside,” he said.

Manitoba’s current number of COVID-19 cases stands at 21. There have been no cases of community transmission. About 4,500 people have been tested. One person was hospitalized but has since been released.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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