Coronavirus: Hamilton to get $44.8M in 1st round of Ontario’s emergency funding

The city of Hamilton will receive more than $44 Million in COVID-19 relief from Ontario's safe restart agreement with the Canadian government.
The city of Hamilton will receive more than $44 Million in COVID-19 relief from Ontario's safe restart agreement with the Canadian government. Will Erskine / Global News

Hamilton, Ont. will receive just over $44.8 million as part of the provincial government’s first round of emergency funding for municipalities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his daily pandemic update on Wednesday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford revealed that $1.6 billion in ‘first-round’ emergency funding would be divided up among Ontario’s 444 municipalities in the fall of 2020.

Read more: Ontario budget deficit projected to jump to $38.5 billion in 2020-2021

The funding, part of the Ontario and federal governments’ Safe Restart Agreement, will be broken down into two parts for each region with $695 million earmarked for municipal operating expenditures tied to the pandemic, while $660 will fund regional transit in 110 municipalities with transit systems.

Hamilton’s share of the $1.6 billion will be just over $27.6 million earmarked for municipal funding with another $17.2 million going to transit.

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“This funding is essential as municipalities continue to deliver public services including transit, public health, child care, housing and social services during the COVID-19 emergency,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in a statement on Wednesday night.

Queen’s Park has also set aside $212 million for the entire province to help the social services relief fund find shelter for vulnerable people in Ontario.

Hamilton is hoping to receive $11.3 million of the social services money via an application process.

Upper Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark told Global News the city’s current estimated deficit, due to the city’s lockdown during COVID-19, is about $62 million.

He suggests the damage could be about $122 million should similar shutdown measures continue through the first quarter of 2021.

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“What is going to be the challenge now is whether or not the second wave of COVID-19 appears and what the impact will be to the municipalities at that point,” Clark said, “So we’re kind of holding our breath.”

Ottawa announced the safe start agreement on July 16 which will provide $19 billion in funding across Canada to help communities ‘build back up’ from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Days after the disclosure, Ontario announced it would be dividing up $4 billion of the money for ‘one-time’ assistance to the province’s municipalities.

Read more: Windsor-Essex joins rest of Ontario in Stage 3 of reopening plan

“This first round of funding will address the most urgent needs of our communities, ensuring critical services like transit and shelters are there when people need them most,” Ford said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Up to $695 million in additional funding will be available through Phase 2 to eligible municipalities after each provides the province with information on their estimated COVID-19 related financial pressures. Payments for Phase 2 are expected to be paid out in March 2021.

Niagara municipalities to share $31.4M

The 12 municipalities and regional governments in Niagara will divide $31.4 million from the safe start agreement.

The region’s municipal government will get the largest chunk at $12.7 million with $600,000 set for transit.

St Catharines will receive $7.4 million, with $3.8 million going towards transit.

Mayor Walter Sendzik thanked both levels of government after the announcement but went on to say in a statement that there was still a lot of ‘uncertainty ahead’ as the region continues to battle COVID-19.

“This is just the start – one that assists us as we continue to look at the budget for the upcoming year,” added Mayor Sendzik.

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Read more: Coronavirus: Ontario researchers study ‘doors’ in human cells affected by COVID-19

Niagara Falls gets $4.2 million with $1.9 million earmarked for transit. Welland will receive a total of $2.1 million from the fund.

Burlington gets $6M in federal and provincial aid

The province will send just over $6 million dollars in relief to Burlington with $4.4 million set for municipal needs and $1.5 million for transit.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said the money was ‘critical’ for the city to continue issuing public services amid the pandemic.

“Today’s funding announcement for Burlington will allow us to continue to serve our community without service cuts, unacceptable tax increases or depleting reserves,” said Meed Ward in a statement on Wednesday.

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Brant County to receive $8M

Brant County will see just over $8 million in funding, with Brantford taking the biggest cut, $6.3 million.

Just over $1.2 million will go to the city’s transit needs.