HRM to borrow COVID-19 cash from province: Mayor

By Matt Brand

HRM will likely be dipping into funds offered by the province through a loan program for municipalities for assistance during COVID-19

The province announced the $380-million loan program last week to help municipalities cover their operating costs so they could continue to provide programs and services.

HRM Mayor Mike Savage says the city is likely going to ask for about half of what’s being offered.

According to Savage, of HRM’s total budget of approximately a billion-dollars, 80 to 85 percent of that is operating costs. 

Savage tells The Sheldon MacLeod Show, one of the issues the city is facing right now is a lack of liquidity.

“If the tax money doesn’t come in because people can’t pay it then we can’t pay our services, and so the loan helps with liquidity. It can put some money into the coffers of the city,” he says.

The other issue the municipality is having, according to Savage, is revenue loss. He says they’ll address that starting next week at the committee of the whole, where they’ll take a look at recalculating the current budget.

They’ll also look at any surplus from last year and money in their reserves to help with the revenue loss, but he points to Halifax Transit as an example of where the city is losing money.

“We’re losing $3-million dollars a month just on transit, and a city of our size can’t afford to do that indefinitely,” says Savage.

Savage adds, the city was in a strong position prior to the pandemic, but there’s no doubt we’ve taken a big hit financially.

“There’s big impacts, and we have to try and figure those out and minimize those so that we can help people who are having trouble now.”

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