By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent’s mayor is encouraging residents to shop local through curbside pickup, as Ontario heads to a province-wide lockdown starting Dec. 26.
Premier Doug Ford made the lockdown announcement on Monday. It is in place until Jan. 23 for southern Ontario’s 27 public health units, the government said.
Mayor Darrin Canniff said the municipality and its economic development department is continuing to do everything it can to help all businesses move to online platforms to make local shopping easy.
“We just need to stick together as a community, like we have been doing the last nine months,” he said.
Municipal-run services will also be feeling the impacts of the closures. Chatham-Kent is already experiencing reductions in revenues from being in the Yellow-Protect as arenas and the casino are running at reduced capacity, Canniff said. The lockdown will further add to the losses.
“But I don’t suspect any impact to the 2021 budget,” Canniff said.
Chatham-Kent also has more than $2 million that will be carried over from 2020 to any 2021 COVID-related expenses.
Last week the provincial government announced that Chatham-Kent will be receiving an extra $1,165,000 in funding that will help the municipality deal with deficits caused by the pandemic.
“Every day, people rely on critical services throughout their communities, and with a growing need, this funding is essential,” stated Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls in a press release. “A well-maintained balanced budget going into 2021 will give the municipality the confidence to proceed with the critical projects needed to drive economic growth due to lost revenue from COVID-19, which will result in lessening the burden on taxpayers.”
The $1.16 million will be added on to an additional $1 million leftover from the government’s 2020 Safe Restart Agreement funding.
In August Chatham-Kent received $5.8 million to help with the incurred costs from the pandemic. Because the money can only be used for pandemic related losses, administration was left with a $1 million surplus after its COVID related expenses were paid. The amount can be carried over to 2021.
“But we hope the province will provide more for 2021,” Canniff said.
Senior governments are expected to announce more help for businesses in the coming days.
During the summer, the municipality handed out a total of $200,000 in funding to local businesses. Canniff said staff is looking into similar measures, but this time for various halls that are impacted by the lack of events happening during the pandemic.
“We’re looking at other options we have to help out,” he said. “But right now we need to stay safe. We’ve done a great job of keeping our cases low and through this lockdown, so hopeful in 28 days we can get back to where we were.”