City councillors have approved an emergency motion to provide temporary economic relief to Londoners during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The motion, made public last week by Ward 3 Coun. Mohamed Salih, directed city staff to “take all necessary actions” to waive interest and penalties for unpaid property tax instalments and water and wastewater bills for 60 days.
“It provides immediate assurance to people that really had to be done quickly with regards to March 30 payments,” Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire said.
The motion will also see Community Improvement Plan loan repayments on an interest-free basis deferred for a minimum of 60 days, starting March 25.
Ward 7 Coun. Josh Morgan seconded Salih’s motion talking about the importance of providing some immediate relief, but added the city couldn’t offer long-term solutions.
“We will have to realize that there will only be so far the municipality can go because we can’t run an operating deficit. We have to collect taxes to cover our expenditures,” Morgan said.
“The longer-term, more meaningful support for Londoners will have to come from the provincial and federal governments.”
This motion will allow Londoners to defer payments, but it won’t allow them to waive fees.
Part of the motion called on staff to report back before June 30 with the next steps, like potentially extending the deferral period, if necessary.
Ward 8 Coun. Steve Lehman proposed that when staff report back that council considers extending the deferred payments until September 30.
“We have to look at providing some certainty to our residents, the taxpayers and the businesses that employ those residents,” Lehman said. “There needs to be time for people to start saving and replenishing their savings while they are laid off from work.”
Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis also talked about the need to consider spreading out the money due over the remainder of the payment term, so Londoners are not stuck paying one lump sum all at once.
At the meeting, city staff said they planned to report back to councillors with more information on the financial impacts and what else could be done in mid-April.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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.
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