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Manitoba to begin distributing federal COVID-19 relief funds

Click to play video 'Winnipeg mayor grateful for federal funds; calls out province on no new dollars' Winnipeg mayor grateful for federal funds; calls out province on no new dollars
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he's thankful to the federal government for around $70 million from the Safe Restart Agreement, but warned of 'implications' if there's no new money from the province – Oct 22, 2020

Manitoba will soon be doling out over $100 million in federal funds to help municipalities offset the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of $72.6 million from the Safe Restart Agreement will be divided between all of Manitoba’s 137 municipalities on a per-capita basis.

Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires says Winnipeg will receive just over $42.2 million of that money.

Read more: Winnipeg faces $30.3M deficit amid COVID-19 cash crunch

“This funding, along with our previously announced provincial supports, will provide municipalities with a much-needed financial cushion so that they can continue delivering the services that their residents need, while still being able to advance priority projects,” Squires said.

A further $33.4 million is earmarked specifically for the five Manitoba municipalities with eligible public transit systems.

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Squires says those are Brandon, Selkirk, Flin Flon, Thompson and Winnipeg, however the exact formula for how it will be divided is still being worked out.

“It will take into account factors such as ridership, as well as projected losses compared to pre-COVID levels.”

Read more: Coronavirus — A look back at 6 months of pandemic in Manitoba

She expects Winnipeg will get over 90 per cent, or $30 million, of those funds.

Mayor Brian Bowman offered his thanks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for coming through on the new funding, but bemoaned the lack of new provincial dollars, especially as it pertains to transit.

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“This is in stark contrast to many other Conservative-run provinces,” Bowman said, using Alberta and Ontario as examples.

The premiers of those provinces have both matched federal funds for transit — $70 million from the Alberta government and $1 billion from Ontario’s.

“We’re not out of the storm, and so next year we anticipate we’re going to be suffering some losses going into the new year. The bulk of those losses are associated with transit,” Bowman said.

Indeed, the city’s most recent financial forecast shows transit is projecting a $32.4-million shortfall, which is up from $29.1 million only two months earlier.

“This could very well have implications in our budget update with respect to transit,” Bowman said.

“That’s something we’re working on right now and we’ll keep you posted on what implications it could have.”

Read more: Winnipeg Transit projecting $29M shortfall due to coronavirus: city report

Bowman says he’s repeatedly written to the province asking whether or not it intends to add new money, but without a response.

The Safe Restart Agreement is a $19-billion deal the federal government worked out with the provinces and territories to restart their economies. It was announced in mid-July.

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