According to the department of local government, New Brunswick municipalities have suffered about $20 million in losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of the pool available from the Safe Restart Agreement.
Municipalities had until the end of December to claim their piece of the $40-million pie, at which point any leftover funds will be distributed per capita at the end of the month. The funding is being allotted on the basis of net losses incurred due to the pandemic.
The executive director of the New Brunswick Union of Municipalities says the per capita funding will help to address the cuts that don’t show up when looking purely at net losses.
“When we talk about savings, these aren’t happy savings. What this represents are hard choices that municipalities had to make during the pandemic when they didn’t know if any help was going to be coming,” said Margot Cragg.
“Savings represent services that you and I depend on every day and it represents people whose lives were impacted.”
Announced in July, the Safe Restart Agreement made $2 billion available for municipalities. New Brunswick qualified for about $20 million from the feds, the other half is being matched by the province.
As of Dec. 23, just 50 of the province’s municipalities had responded with a list of their needs, totaling $6.3 million. Since the funding is based on losses, those who made cuts to keep their finances above water won’t be eligible.
Cragg notes that municipalities are legally not able to run deficits, meaning many had to make tough decisions before they knew money would be coming in. The subsequent per capita distribution will help.
“Per capita distribution as well also means that for municipalities that made hard choices where the bottom line looks healthy, but really what it represents was a lot of hard decisions and cuts,” Cragg said.
“The help is really welcome, but at the end of the day you can’t go back in time and put buses back on the road, you can’t go back in time and hire people who unfortunately couldn’t be hired. You know, we can’t go back and make those decisions.”