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City of Calgary explores additional assistance programs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Calgary City Hall.
Calgary City Hall. Global News

The City of Calgary is exploring the possibility of making additional assistance programs available in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 6, city council approved a three-month property tax deferral program. Normally taxes are due at the end of June and if not paid on-time, residents can face a seven per cent penalty.

Now, city manager David Duckworth, said there are a number of other areas being looked at for possible deferral programs.

READ MORE: City of Calgary launches property tax deferral program

“Permit, business licensing, rent deferrals and relief, investments to support innovation and bridge funding for partners,” Duckworth said to members of the city’s audit committee on Monday.

“We want to make sure financial supports are thoughtful, meaningful and allow for the largest impact, so we’re taking a bit of time to review these options in detail,” he said.

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Councillor and chair of the audit committee, Evan Woolley, said he has concerns these potential deferrals may not be enough.

“We’ve bought ourselves and Calgarians three months of time right now while we continue to work on solutions,” he said.

“If I’m in a tough spot here, and I get three months deferment, I’m not all of a sudden going to magically have my regular payments, plus the increases.”

Click to play video 'Top issues for 2020: Calgary city councillor outlines concerns and what’s next' Top issues for 2020: Calgary city councillor outlines concerns and what’s next
Top issues for 2020: Calgary city councillor outlines concerns and what’s next

Officials have been in constant communication with other cities during the pandemic, Woolley said, and there may be a collective push to have the federal government expand a program that is currently available to seniors.

“It’s a program where eligible senior homeowners can defer all or part of their municipal property taxes with a low-interest home equity loan. It’s through the provincial governments,” Woolley said.

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“Cities are saying, ‘we would like to see that program expanded to all property owners.’

“It would likely have to be backstopped by the federal government.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: City of Calgary prepares for post-pandemic economic recovery

With the city’s main sources of revenue being property taxes and user fees, Woolley said federal help would be needed, as municipalities cannot run a deficit and must have a balanced budget by the end of the year.

Officials have said the city of Calgary is losing up to $15 million a week because of lost revenue, with all recreation facilities closed and transit ridership down more than 80 per cent.