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Posted on: January 26, 2021

PROVINCIAL GRANT HELPING TOWN MITIGATE COVID IMPACTS

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Council got an update on how the Town is using the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) grant at their meeting Monday.

The Town received $2,969,559 to help mitigate the financial impacts of COVID-19, including COVID-19-related expenses, lost revenue, increased staffing and labour costs and funds distributed to others.

Mayor Jeff Genung appreciates the support from other levels of government. “This support from federal and provincial governments makes it possible for the Town to continue supporting Cochrane families and businesses while they deal with the pandemic and all the ways we’ve had to adapt.”

The report to Council detailed estimated 2020 revenue shortfalls and expenses totalling $2,072,000:

  • COVID-19 related expenses: $307,000
  • Lost revenue: $975,000
  • Increased staffing and labour costs: $40,000
  • Funds distributed to others: $750,000

COVID-19 related expenses include community signage, plexiglass barriers, PPE for staff, community communications activities and extra cleaning supplies.

The Town implemented a variety of measures to support those struggling financially, including extending the tax payment deadline to September 30, deferring utility bill payments to August 20 with no penalty, adjusting residential water consumption thresholds to mitigate against anticipated increases to consumption, continuing to support vulnerable populations through Emergency Social Services and community partners, and providing COLT as a free service.

To contribute to the protection of community health and safety and comply with provincial health regulations, the Town closed facilities to the public between mid-March and mid-July. Staff cancelled all plans for work-related travel and made alternate plans for meetings, training and conferences; events at the RancheHouse were cancelled.

Many Town staff began working from home, which put a strain on the Town’s existing information technology systems. Part of the grant ($660,000) will be used for the purchase and installation of more permanent, reliable and secure remote work technology solutions for staff and Town systems required as a result of COVID.

In 2020, Council approved a draw from reserves of up to $1.5 million to offset the revenue and expense impacts of COVID and to support funds distributed to others. A further $18,000 was drawn from election and orientation operating reserves for upgrades to Council chambers to support live-streaming technology. With the MOST grant now in place, those funds can be left in reserves for future needs.

For more on the MOST grant, check alberta.ca/municipal-operating-support-transfer.aspx.

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