Sarnia City Hall. September 2018 Photo by Melanie IrwinSarnia City Hall. September 2018 Photo by Melanie Irwin

Sarnia council considering extending COVID relief, pandemic impact 'alarming'

Sarnia council is being asked Monday to further extend COVID-19 relief measures.

Mayor Mike Bradley said there would be no penalty or interest charges on deferred property tax payments until July 31.

"Even though it's a good day that we're moving forward on Stage 2, the reality is that this is a long game and the statistics that are in the report going to council Monday are alarming," said Bradley. "They show that on property taxes, over last year, almost 55 per cent of the accounts are in arrears, on water and sewage, 43 per cent are in arrears and this is at a time when there's still substantial government money coming into the community through the CERB [Canada Emergency Response Benefit]."

Late payment fees on invoices or tax payments returned due to insufficient funds wouldn't be charged either.

Staff are also recommending rent for commercial or non-profit tenants be waived from April 1 until June 30 if needed.

Bradley said a real financial crisis is on the horizon in the fall.

"It is very obvious out there that people are in great financial distress and emotional distress. So, council's doing everything it can to work with the business community, with labour, to see how we can continue to assist people. We're tightening up our spending. We cut over $2 million, which means less service to the community, but we're preparing for the fall so we don't have a massive tax increase in 2021."

Bradley said council is being asked to implement immediate opportunities to assist business owners with their economic recovery.

"[That includes] freeing up a number of regulations for the next two years as it relates to patios and having parking in the downtown used for patios and other uses by restaurants and retail. We're doing everything we can to give them a chance to survive."

While the city has estimated the financial impact of COVID-19 to be nearly $2.5 million by the end of August, the aggressive approach taken to offset the hit is expected to save the city $2.9 million during that time.

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