Coronavirus: Kingston economic recovery team plans to assist hard hit sectors

Kingston, Ontario’s economic recovery team livestreamed its first meeting on Wednesday. The meeting was led by Mayor Bryan Paterson, followed by a selected team of local industry leaders who are working to navigate the road to recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ten-person team discussed the city’s economic recovery, starting with sectors that have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that [among] the big themes in the discussion today was ‘how do these sectors re-invent themselves? What does going to a restaurant look like in the months to come? How do you make it work financially?'” says Paterson.

READ MORE: Economic recovery team created in Kingston, Ont., to help businesses amid coronavirus pandemic

These are some of the main concerns that were shared by all sectors represented on the recovery team, including hospitality, personal services and non-profit sectors.

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“Being able to hear directly from the people that are experiencing firsthand what the challenges are, that’s going to help us put financial supports in place, to help provide guidance on how to adapt their business so that it’s going to work in the new normal,” says Paterson.

Due to the uncertainty that comes with the beginning of every month, Paterson suggested creating a new model that will work for businesses financially while also adhering to public health guidelines.

Now in phase one of reopening the province, the recovery team is tasked with responding to the provincial government’s orders — this week retail stores were allowed to open for the first time in two months.

But there are still restrictions in place, such as social distancing, which can make it difficult for some organizations to remain viable, as many require close contact with others.

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READ MORE: Some countries that reopened saw upticks in COVID-19 cases — what can Canada learn?

The local United Way is one non-profit that has been struggling financially during the pandemic.

“The key concerns of charities and non-profits is around fundraising first … revenue decline, increase in demand, and the innovation and collaboration that needs to happen,” says Bhavana Varma, the CEO of the United Way Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, who is also a member of the recovery team.

She believes all sectors involved share a common goal, which is to get their operations back up and running safely.

In an effort to keep businesses viable, the city has recently provided incentives for businesses, including deferring property tax payments. They are continuing to work on identifying which sectors in Kingston could benefit from further financial support.

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