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Local governments next to seek help in battle against COVID-19

It appears local governments are now next in line for financial assistance from seniors governments due to COVID-19.

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson says they have had ongoing conversations with the Provincial Government in particular, and he says they are looking at some of the pain that communities are experiencing…

“For example, the province made a decision a number of weeks ago to make transit free but part of the structure of transit’s financing is the actual rider fees, so without those fees transit is running at a loss and that’s a loss that we somehow have to absorb within our property taxation. Central Mountain Air is no longer doing flights out of our airport for the next two months at least, and again the landing fees and the fuel that Central Mountain Air pays helps to offset the costs of running an airport.”

Simpson says there is a lot of pressure to do tax deferrals for July, but he says that presents problems for municipalities…

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“Tax deferral for provincial and federal governments who can run deficits and who can borrow money is not a major issue, because they can wait until they collect their taxes. Tax deferral for local governments means that many local governments will not be able to continue to provide their regular services and programs because they’re not collecting the money to pay for them, and they can’t borrow money, and they can’t run deficits.”

Simpson says the city of Quesnel is in pretty good shape with reserves that can be used in the short term, but Simpson says that money has to be put back into reserves.

He says they are now doing a full assessment of the city’s finances, although he says it’s difficult to make plans…

“It’s difficult for us to actually plan what the next financial impact will be because of course we don’t know the duration of this pandemic shutdown, and we don’t what other things are going to happen as a result of it. Last week we did some scenario planning and then got a phone call from Central Mountain Air that they weren’t going to be doing flights. We’ve been asked to add more bylaw resources, so each sort of week there is another flavour to it.”

Simpson says the next step is to find out from the senior governments which areas they are willing to support communities with.

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