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Halifax to lay off 1,480 casual, seasonal employees after deferring tax collection until June

Halifax to lay off 1480 casual, seasonal employees
WATCH: The Halifax Regional Municipality has laid off nearly 1,500 people in an effort to balance the budget amid revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic. Jesse Thomas reports.

The Halifax Regional Municipality will lay off 1,480 casual, temporary and seasonal workers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, senior municipal officials announced on Wednesday.

Approximately 500 of the laid-off employees are categorized as seasonal and will simply not be hired for the upcoming spring and summer season.

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Chief administrative officer (CAO) Jacques Dubé said the decision will save approximately $15 million for the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).

Dubé said the hope is that all of those individuals will be able to return as employees when things return to normal.

He said the municipality could not guarantee there would not be more layoffs.

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“This is a very fluid and unprecedented fiscal situation,” said Dubé in his remarks.

“No one has a crystal ball.”

The majority of layoffs are located in the HRMs parks and recreation department.

Dubé said employees were notified last week of the layoffs.

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When asked why the decision was made now, after the federal government has announced payroll rebates, Dube said the process took time,

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“We have 5,000 people that work for HRM and since this pandemic came upon us we have been working pretty much day and night on examining the HR situation,” said the CAO.

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The announcement comes only a day after regional council agreed to defer property taxes until at least June 1.

Property taxes were slated to be due at the end of April.

A virtual council meeting on Tuesday saw council vote unanimously to implement the deferral along with a host of other financial relief measures.

They include lowering the arrears fees for overdue accounts from 15 per cent to 10 per cent, and eliminating a $40 non-sufficient funds fee.

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At this point, the city has projected a loss of $223 million from COVID-19, with approximately $188 million of that coming from the tax deferral.

Mayor Mike Savage said it’s necessary for anyone who is able to pay their property taxes to do so.

It’s one of the few streams of revenue still available to the municipality, he said.

“To be clear, this is a deferral. If you can pay your taxes, pay them,” Savage said on Wednesday.

The mayor said many of the front-line  and essential workers are paid for by the municipality and with a lack of income the

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Halifax man issued a ticket for walking through North Commons path confused on what to do

Savage said the municipality will support Haligonians and Halfiax businesses that are in need. He characterized the tax deferral as immediate short-term relief.

“All of us are bleeding cash right now and all are continuing to do our duty,” said Savage.

“We will make difficult choices, and I assure you there is no joy in those choices but we need to make changes.”

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

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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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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