Municipality receives emergency funding, Mayor feels community dealing with pandemic well
Tim Brody - Editor
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout has received $324,904 to help offset increased costs and lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding, divided into municipal funding and transit funding allocations, was announced on August 12 as part of the first round of emergency funding under the Safe Restart Agreement, a partnership between the federal and provincial governments.
Municipal CAO Michelle Larose explained, “The Municipal allocation of $303,400 is specific to addressing the costs and pressures that the Municipality is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If there are any excess funds, they must be placed into reserves for future costs in 2021.
“The allocation of $21,504 for transit is specific to financial pressures due to reduced revenues and new expenses resulting from COVID-19.”
Larose clarified, “Some examples of costs are directly related to expenses incurred to adhere to the legislated requirements as a result of the pandemic. Examples include infrastructure changes such as barriers and erection of walls in offices to delineate public spaces vs. staff working areas, masks, portable hand washing stations, disinfectant, communications, conference call, zoom meeting and council meeting expenses to broadcast virtually, airport closure with little to no flights. In addition, with the reopening of our daycare facilities, the mandate for student teacher ratios increased, in turn increasing our wage costs with limited revenues to offset those costs.
“The transit system had increased pressures due to COVID related costs, much the same as the Municipality as it related to barriers, personal protective equipment, masks, gloves and reduced revenues.”
Larose said that for the municipal allocation there is an opportunity to apply for Phase 2 funding for additional municipal and transit pressures.
She added, “Staff will be providing a report to Council on our financial position, likely in October and provide recommendations for the funding received to support the costs incurred due to COVID-19.”
Municipal Clerk Brian MacKinnon clarified that approximately 45 per cent of the Municipality’s workforce had been laid off in late March/early April as a means of offsetting lost revenue due to COVID-19.
MacKinnon said staff began to be recalled in June. Over 90 per cent of laid off municipal employees are now back to work. The remaining staff are expected to be recalled by the end of August.
Mayor Doug Lawrance said this has resulted in a lot of catching up for staff to do.
Lawrance said he felt municipal staff have been progressive in tackling the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although we did the best we could to mitigate things, there were extra costs and then there is reduced revenue, both reduced taxation revenue and reduced user fee revenue,” Lawrance said.
Overall, Lawrance said he feels Sioux Lookout has weathered the COVID-19 storm relatively well, “I think so. I think as I said in my article last week, there will be people who resist masks, but there will be many who welcome that with relief. I think in general, people are very careful, very compliant and recognize the situation that we’re in. I think Sioux Lookout’s people and businesses are doing a very good job of dealing with this.”
“I encourage local people to do what you can to support those businesses, whether it’s eating out in a dining room that might be open, my family and I chose this year to go on a houseboat tour… with one of the outfitters up to Lac Seul… it was a fantastic vacation,” Lawrance concluded.