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Friday , 26 February 2021

City rolls out second phase of COVID-19 support programs

City council passed several new measures to help residents and businesses feeling the financial crunch due to the pandemic.

At a special council meeting on Monday, council passed a bylaw that will establish a grant to help offset some of the cost that businesses incurred to stay open under COVID-19 restrictions, suspended penalties on overdue utility bills for the next three months, and allowed deferrals for those paying taxes month-by-month.

“Our heart goes out to those people whose businesses and careers – their dreams and livelihoods – have been put on hold due to the pandemic and the restrictions in place,” said Mayor Craig Copeland in a press release.

“Our council unanimously voted to assist the public with a range of initiatives we hope can provide not only a small measure of financial relief, but also the knowledge that we are here to support our residents and businesses in these unprecedented times.”

On Jan. 12, city council asked administration to prepare a range of initiatives to help those struggling.

Financial Assistance for Small Businesses

Council passed a bylaw that will establish a fund to help offset some of the cost that businesses incurred to stay open under COVID-19 restrictions.

The bylaw establishes a fund of $50,000 and eligible applications will be received on a first-come, first-served basis until March 31, 2021, or until the fund is depleted.

The grants will be available to businesses that have incurred additional costs to stay open or reopen under COVID-19 guidelines. Storefront businesses can apply for a $500 grant, while home-based businesses can apply for a $100 grant.

Eligible businesses must hold a valid 2021 business licence, be located within the City of Cold Lake, and have incurred costs up to the grant threshold. Eligible expenses include those related to the purchase of personal protective equipment, sanitization products, or modifying their spaces in accordance with the provincial or federal COVID-19 restrictions.

Expenditures under this grant program will be recoverable to the City of Cold Lake through the province’s Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST), a COVID-19-related provincial grant supporting municipalities.

An application process for this program will be established as soon as possible and advertised to the business community.

Utility Bill Deferrals

Council passed a measure that will suspend the 3.5 per cent penalty on overdue utility bills for the months of February, March, and April of 2021.

The City will continue to invoice residents and businesses during this time, but will not process penalties on balances from these three months and will not transfer accounts over 90 days in arrears to the property’s taxes during this time.

A similar framework was passed that waived penalties for April, May and June of 2020. This resulted in a total of $11,600 in penalties being waived.

For more information, residents can call City Hall at 780-594-4494 or email [email protected]

Tax Installment Payments Plan (TIPPs) Deferral

Council passed a bylaw that will allow property owners who make property tax payments in monthly installments under the TIPPs program to defer their payments for February, March, and April of 2021.

The deferral does not constitute a waiver of the fees. The payments will be deferred for 90 days and then the amount of the deferral will be distributed over the remaining payments for 2021.

Accounts and payments associated with them will be adjusted once the 2021 tax rate is set in May to ensure that the total tax bill is collected by December 31, 2021.

A similar deferral was in place for April, May, and June of 2020. A total of 40 properties took advantage of the program, of which 57 per cent were residential and 43 per cent were non-residential.

For more information, residents can call City Hall at 780-594-4494 or email [email protected]

General Accounts Receivable Penalties Waiver

This program was passed by council and will waive the 1.5 per cent penalty on general accounts receivable invoices for February, March and April of 2021.

Monthly invoices will continue, but any penalties for these three months will not be assessed to the account. General accounts receivable covers accounts for transfer station fees, the Meals on Wheels program, Cold Lake Fire-Rescue calls, and lease of City property.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.