Cities and towns in Atlantic Canada feeling cash crunch from COVID-19: Savage

Municipalities of all sizes in Atlantic Canada are starting to feel the squeeze of the economic shut down to battle COVID-19, and are looking for financial help in order to maintain basic essential services.

Mike Savage, mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), has even taken a voluntary 20 per cent cut in his net pay until at least July, in what he calls a “small gesture” to do his part.

Savage says cities such as his are feeling the pinch across the country, and are facing shortfalls in cash for services such as police, fire and transit.

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He says two measures that would provide significant help include a large increase to the so-called gas tax, a federal fund for municipalities that was doubled last year for infrastructure use, and more access to lower interest provincial loans.

Without the help, Savage says there will be a compound effect on municipal budgets for years to come.

HRM announced Wednesday it was laying off close to 1,500 casual, temporary and seasonal employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the workers are in the recreation department, while crossing guards and seasonal labourers are also being cut.

The municipality also instituted a hiring freeze and announced it was moving the deadline for personal and commercial property taxes back to June 1.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2020.

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