New funding will help avoid layoffs at Ottawa City Hall: Mayor Watson
OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson suggests a $124 million financial lifeline from the federal and Ontario governments will help the City of Ottawa avoid layoffs in 2021.
On Wednesday, the federal and Ontario governments announced the first round of funding under the Safe Restart Agreement to help municipalities deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the deal, Ottawa will receive $49,348,500 for municipal funding and $74,980,842 to cover transit costs.
The funding comes after city staff estimated the City of Ottawa was facing a $192 million budget deficit this year due to increased costs and lost revenue. Appearing on CTV Morning Live Friday morning, host Leslie Roberts asked the mayor whether the city has received enough funding to ensure there will be no layoffs next year.
"The short answer is yes. We've got about 65 per cent of what we need from the federal and provincial government," said Mayor Watson.
"We also have the ability to apply for additional funds, which we're going to have to because we can't rely on just 65 per cent we need to remain whole for our taxpayers at 100 per cent. So it's a great down payment of about $124-$125 million."
City Treasurer Wendy Stephanson and City Manager Steve Kanellakos warned there could be layoffs and service cuts in 2021 without help from the upper levels of government.
Watson says the $74 million in funding for transit will help OC Transpo as it deals with a double-whammy due to COVID-19.
"Our costs are going up, increased cleaning and disinfectant and so on, and our revenues are going down because there are fewer people taking the bus and the train as a result of losing their jobs sadly or in many cases people working from home and not having to use transit," said Watson.
Earlier this week, Watson told Council that the Ontario Government has set up a process for accessing additional funds, and staff will work to secure funding to "make the city whole on its COVID-19 fiscal deficit."