Mississauga set to receive millions from the province and feds to cope with COVID-19 fallout

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The City of Mississauga will receive $46 million from the federal and provincial governments to help it cope with the staggering deficit it incurred over the course of the COVID-19 lockdown. 

In a statement posted to her website, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the funding will help the city address the approximately $60 million deficit it's currently facing. 

The Region of Peel, which consists of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, will also receive a funding influx of almost $28 million.

The funding announcement comes after the federal and provincial governments promised to deliver emergency assistance to Ontario’s 444 municipalities through the Safe Restart Agreement. Ontario recently announced that it secured up to $4 billion in emergency assistance for towns and cities impacted by the novel coronavirus and associated economic shutdown.  

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had the backs of our municipalities, which is why we are announcing up to $1.6 billion in critical funding today to help strengthen our communities and safely restart our economy,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement. 

“This first round of funding will address the most urgent needs of our communities, ensuring critical services like transit and shelters are there when people need them most.”

In a statement, Crombie thanked the federal and provincial leaders.

"It's important to give credit where it is due and I want to thank Premier Ford for being a champion for cities and for coming to the table time and time again to advocate for our needs. I also want to thank Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau and the federal government for their unprecedented financial commitment."

Crombie said that of the $46 million, nearly $15 million will help support Mississauga with operating pressures and loss in revenue due to the closure of several city programs and services over the course of this pandemic. 

"This support will ease the pressure to cut frontline services or significantly raise property taxes," she wrote, adding that $31 million will be earmarked to fund MiWay, which suffered immense revenue loss over the course of the pandemic. 

"During the pandemic, many cities saw a considerable decline in ridership and several, including Mississauga, made transit free. Transit alone is forecast to have a $44 million dollar loss in 2020. While we are once again collecting fares, ridership remains low," Crombie wrote. 

"This funding will help in part, fund our transit system to ensure that we can get people to and from work and that our economy thrives in the months and years to come." 

A local MPP called the announcement "historic." 

“This historic agreement will provide almost $74 million in immediate relief for the City of Mississauga and the Region of Peel, to help address the most urgent local impacts of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Rudy Cuzzetto, MPP for Mississauga-Lakeshore, in a statement. 

“We recognize that the success of our municipalities is key to Ontario’s economic recovery, and we will continue to work with our municipal and regional partners to understand the full financial impact of COVID-19, and to ensure that they have the funding they need to deliver critical services.”

In September, Ontario municipalities will receive a total of $695 million in Phase 1 funding for municipal operating pressures. The province says the funding will be allocated on a per household basis and would be shared 50/50 between upper- and lower-tier municipalities.

Up to $695 million in additional funding will be available through Phase 2 for municipalities that have COVID-related financial impacts that exceed the initial per household allocation provided under Phase 1.

The province also says it's providing over $660 million in the first phase of transit funding to the 110 municipalities with transit systems. The funding can be used to provide immediate relief from transit pressures, such as lower ridership, as well as for new costs due to COVID-19, such as enhanced cleaning and masks for staff. 

In the second phase, additional allocations will be provided based on expenses incurred. As part of the Safe Restart Agreement with the federal government, up to $2 billion is being provided to support public transit in Ontario.

The federal Safe Restart Agreement will provide $19 billion to Canadian provinces and territories to help them recover. The agreement provides up to a total of $4 billion in funding to the province, and the Ontario government is making a contribution of 50 per cent to the municipal supports and transit funding available through the agreement, with the federal government contributing the other 50 per cent.

Crombie said that although the funding will help, the city will still have to make difficult choices as it stares down a historic deficit. 

"This funding will help us kick start our economy and ensure we can continue to deliver the essential services our residents and businesses rely on. Despite this support, we are still forecasting a deficit this year and will continue to work to identify savings and face tough decisions as we plan our 2021 Budget," Crombie said. 

"COVID-19 will bring additional financial pressures to future years and we look forward to working with the province to determine how Phase 2 funding can best support large, urban cities like Mississauga."

Cover photo courtesy of @idris.yyz

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