Hamilton faces $23M deficit due to COVID-19 pandemic: report

A report presented to council Wednesday says Hamilton should anticipate a hit of about $23 million to city finances for 2020. Lisa Polewski / Global News

The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been presented during a virtual meeting of Hamilton City Council on Wednesday.

A staff report from Mike Zegarac, general manager of finance, based on projections to the end of May, anticipates that the net financial impact of the pandemic on the city will take the form of a $22.9 million deficit.

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Zegarac says that number is the result of more than $20 million in lost revenues and $6.6 million in added costs, partially offset by $4 million in confirmed funding from upper levels of government.

The biggest share of lost revenues – $7.3 million – comes from transit, with fares not being collected for the time being.

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Other hits to city finances include public health costs of $3.8 million in staffing for the pandemic, plus another $78,000 for personal protective equipment (PPE).

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Zegarac adds that cancelled recreation programs, lost parking fees and fines, and the loss of Ontario Lottery and Gaming slots revenues, will have million-dollar impacts on the city’s bottom line.

The decision to waive penalties and interest until the end of June for those who can’t pay the property tax, could cost close to $1 million depending on how many people take the city up on the offer, according to the report.

A recommendation within the study asks council to join other municipalities in seeking further financial support from the provincial and federal levels of government.

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During Wednesday’s meeting, Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins asked staff to bring a report back to a future meeting with a list of capital projects that could be removed from the budget this year to help reduce the deficit.

Collins says many budgeted projects aren’t likely to happen in 2020 due to the current circumstances and could be resubmitted in future years.

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.

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.

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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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