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Kingston mayor submits COVID-19 recovery needs for Ontario budget considerations

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Mayor Bryan Paterson has submitted several requests to Ontario’s minister of finance for local COVID-19 recovery needs before Ontario budget deliberations.

“COVID-19 has impacted many aspects of our city and amplified existing challenges of homelessness, mental health, addiction and access to affordable housing. It has also strained our local post-secondary institutions, threatened the livelihood of our downtown and cultural sector, and put into question the survival of many local businesses,” Paterson said in a statement Wednesday.

Read more: Kingston homeowners face 2.4% tax hike as pandemic hits municipal revenues

In a statement posted to his website, the mayor laid out detailed requests sent to the province for funding and support to help the city’s public and private sectors recover from the last year, and in the year to come.

The mayor says that the city will continue to face “budget gaps” in 2021 until the pandemic is under control, and that the province will need to invest in municipalities in order to preempt “long-term economic downturn.”

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“The province will need to take a consistent approach to maintain a strong fiscal situation and to ensure that communities recover, can reengage local economies, and thus encourage business investment and growth,” he said.

Among many items listed, Paterson asked for $1.5 million in direct funding for the city’s new Integrated Care Hub, which supports homeless populations in the city.

The city is also asking the province to focus on getting students back on campus, and tourists back in eastern Ontario.

He said that tourism is especially significant to this region, which before the pandemic saw 5.5 million annual visitors and contributed an estimated $528 million to the local economy.

“By investing a portion of the government’s recovery funding into enhancing tourist attractions across the province, Ontario will have even more to offer when we are once again able to welcome the world,” he wrote.

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Paterson also asked for more funding for mental health supports, and for long-term care supports. He specifically asked the provincial government to cover the cost of the new four-hour minimum standard of care for long-term care residents.

“Municipalities are not healthcare providers and are increasingly being asked to take on healthcare related functions,” Paterson wrote.

Also on the list, a request that the provincial government consider reducing regulatory burdens and expanding rent relief for local businesses, as well as offering more funding for businesses to implement additional public health guidelines.

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The mayor has also asked for a continuation of the Social Services Relief Fund and the Safe Restart Agreement into 2022, so that the city can further bolster transit, housing and childcare needs.

In May 2020, Paterson launched the Kingston Economic Recovery Team, which has been meeting every month since to respond to the economic impacts of COVID-19 in the city.

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“This budget submission is a product of collaboration amongst our business community, non-profit sector, tourism and culture industry and our post-secondary institutions and details how the province could best support the city’s recovery efforts,” the city said.

The mayor’s website lays out the full list of his budget requests.

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