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Federal funding fast track ‘not new money’ for Edmonton’s COVID-19 recovery: Iveson

Federal funding falls short of Edmonton’s needs for COVID-19 recovery
WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton mayor Don Iveson is still waiting for emergency funding for cities, despite an announcement from Ottawa on Monday. Vinesh Pratap has the details.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said Monday an announcement from the federal government to fast track funding to municipalities isn’t the news he’s been waiting for.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government would be speeding up the process to get $2.2 billion in expected infrastructure funding to Canada’s cities struggling with the financial hit of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau pledges to speed $2 billion in funding for cash-strapped cities
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau pledges to speed $2 billion in funding for cash-strapped cities

That money was previously promised to municipalities from gas-tax funds, and will now be given in one lump sump payment as opposed to two payments through the year.

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“It’s not new money, but it does arrive a little bit sooner,” Iveson said via an online news conference Monday.

“These dollars are — well helpful — not helpful enough in stemming the unrecoverable losses we have from our shortfalls.

“Particularly in areas of transit, PPE acquisition, and some of the other extraordinary costs and revenue impairments that municipalities are facing.”

READ MORE: Ottawa speeding rollout of billions in funding for cash-strapped cities amid coronavirus

Iveson has also penned a letter to Premier Jason Kenney, asking again for the provincial government to push its federal counterpart to give provinces emergency operational funding.

The letter is also signed by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, as well as the presidents of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta group.

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The mayor also sent a similar letter to the premier earlier this month.

READ MORE: Edmonton-area mayors ask Alberta government to lobby feds for COVID-19 recovery funds

Iveson did note Monday that he believes the earlier funding will allow the city to save some money on interest payments, and that he feels the prime minister is showing an understanding of the seriousness of the situation.

“[Trudeau’s] commitment to continue to work with the premiers to try to bring a solution that will be helpful to municipalities of all sizes [and] particularly Canada’s large cities is appreciated. Clearly there is more work to do,” Iveson said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: City of Edmonton announces economic recovery program for businesses

Trudeau said he had spoken to premiers last Thursday about the approach moving forward as the Canadian economy relaunches.

“We’re ready to be a partner in a safe, effective restart of the economy,” Trudeau said Monday.

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“This is a start. We know there’s more to be done to support municipalities, and to support the entire reopening process.

“In the days and weeks to come, we’ll keep working with the provinces and territories on this and in a whole range of other measures.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says his government wants to be a ‘partner’ for provinces in a ‘safe, effective’ economic restart
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says his government wants to be a ‘partner’ for provinces in a ‘safe, effective’ economic restart

However, Trudeau also said the federal government can only do so much for the cities directly.

“We need to work with the provinces on this. Cities are the responsibilities of the provinces. The federal government will be there to work with the provinces to support to help flow money, but the provinces need to step up as well.”

Edmonton’s gas-tax payment for 2020 was set at a preliminary amount of just over 55.6 million.

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