Thursday, April 16, 2020

Province to offer supports for BC businesses and local governments

Finance Minister Carole James outlined a range of measures
today to assist municipal governments and business owners
(file photo)

The British Columbia government has responded to some of the growing financial concerns from both the commercial sector and from municipal governments across the province.

Towards the program Finance Minister Carole James outlined some of the immediate steps that the government will be putting in place to lend a hand.

“We know that B.C. communities and businesses are suffering from the economic impacts of COVID-19. That is why our B.C. COVID-19 Action Plan is focused on the health and safety of British Columbians, direct support for people and businesses and economic recovery for our province. We are providing further support by making additional temporary property tax changes to provide province wide relief for business and local governments to help weather the pandemic, continue to deliver the services people count on and be part of our province’s economic recovery.” -- Carole James, Minister of Finance.

Among some of the measures that were introduced today by Ms. James were:

Authorizing local governments to borrow, interest-free, from their existing capital reserves to help pay for operating expenses, such as employee salaries.

Delaying provincial school tax remittances until the end of the year. This will provide significant relief to local governments facing cash flow issues.

Providing local governments greater flexibility to carry debt for an additional year.

Some of the Provincial measures to help BC
municipalities during these times of the COVID-19 pandemic
click to enlarge)

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having significant financial impacts on all levels of government. It’s going to take hard work from both municipalities and the provincial government, but working together we will get through this Many local governments have already shown leadership by taking steps to help people and businesses and maintain services, while addressing their finances. With these new measures, we are giving local governments new tools as a first step to ease their financial burdens and that of businesses in their communities now, and as we look to recovery in the months to come.” -- Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. 

The government has also offered up some relief for the hard hit commercial sector, with business owners across the province now able to take advantage of these changes:

Reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties to achieve an average 25% reduction in the total property tax bill for most businesses, providing up to $700 million in relief. This enhances the 50% reduction to the provincial school property tax rate that was originally announced for classes 4, 5, and 6 as part of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan. 

Postponing the date that late payment penalties apply for commercial properties in classes 4,5,6,7 and 8 to Oct. 1, 2020, to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their reduced property tax, without penalty.

You can review more background on today's announcement here.

The province has also introduced a COVID-19 support service for British Columbia businesses to access more information and learn of additional supports, details on that initiative can be found here.

You can access that site here.

As we noted Tuesday, a number of municipal governments have outlined the areas of concern for their communities and the steps that they were taking to go along with their advocacy to the province for some additional assistance.

Prince Rupert City Council has not made much mention of much of anything in recent weeks, seemingly morphing into a caretaker position since their March 23rd Council session and a subsequent suspension of a Local State of Emergency by the province,

Since that time, the only public comments in recent weeks have come mostly through the Mayor's Facebook page.

Such was the lack of work it seems for the Council members that they cancelled the last public Council session, owing to a lack of business.

So far, there has been no information released by the City related to the latest assistance offered by the province towards municipal requirements.

You can review more notes from City Council from our Council archive page here.

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