While the province of B.C. has a long road of economic recovery ahead of them, the City of Williams Lake is hopeful they won’t face the same journey.
The provincial government announced earlier this month that they are forecasting a $12.5 billion deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes just five months after the provincial budget saw a marginal surplus of $227 million.
Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb said that the City will see its overall surplus hurt by the pandemic, but believes that they will finish the year with a surplus.
“It probably won’t be as big. Our shortfall is going to be at the airport. We’ve had minimal flights, and thank goodness we haven’t had any fires. A big part of our revenue at the airport is the fire centre, so we get a lot of traffic and a lot of fuel sales from there,” he said. “We will be down in that department, but they have a surplus in that account, so I think we will be fine.”
“I think our community forest is another issue with a whole lot of other things that are going on,” Cobb continued. “We are probably not going to have the revenue from the community forest.”
He said that the City has been working closely to help businesses within the City be able to get money so they and the City can recover.
“Through our Economic Development Officer, she’s working with the BIA, working with the Chamber of Commerce and any grants and programs that were in place we have made sure that they are available to the businesses and they know about them, so they are able to access them,” he said. “Most of the funding is coming from Federal and Provincial governments, but sometimes it’s so cumbersome to get them, so we’ve been able to help them get through that process.”
As of last month, the unemployment rate in the province is the highest it’s been since 1987 and has skyrocketed to around 13 per cent from just five per cent in February. In that time, the province has seen 235,100 fewer jobs.
Cobb said with fewer people working, he is worried that there won’t be jobs for people when everything opens back up.
“There are some that are hurting very badly, and some businesses are doing really well, but some are hurting,” he said. “I think part of that is because they (the residents of Williams Lake) couldn’t go out or didn’t feel comfortable going out, so they may be started purchasing online and that’s my biggest fear that it will put more and more people buying online which will affect our small businesses.”
So far, the province has earmarked $1.5 billion for economic recovery and has provided $6.26 billion in financial aid to businesses and individuals.