Trudeau announces infra fund to help cities cover COVID-19 costs

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government will offer cities an advanced transfer of 2.2 billion Canadian dollars (about US $1.6 billion) in infrastructure money to help cover COVID-19-caused budget shortfalls.

“This is strong support to keep Canadians safe and our communities strong. And it’s support that will give businesses the confidence to reopen, getting hardworking Canadians back on the job,” Trudeau said here at Monday’s press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the funding is a start and more will come, Xinhua news agency reported.

Trudeau’s announcement came after the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said in April that cities were facing serious financial pressures and were asking for up to 15 billion Canadian dollars in assistance.

The federation said that with transit ridership and parking fares down considerably and new costs arising to address the pandemic such as setting up testing clinics and funding essential services, they are looking at layoffs or tax increases to help make ends meet.

The money will be made in a single payment this month to help municipalities recover from the pandemic as quickly as possible.

It can then be directed to projects under 18 different categories including public transit, wastewater infrastructure, local roads and bridges, disaster mitigation, broadband and connectivity, culture, tourism and recreation.

Many cities in the country reportedly have seen their revenues dry up while the cost of responding to the ongoing pandemic continues to mount.

The city of Toronto is reportedly estimating a loss of 1.5 billion Canadian dollars in revenue by the end of the year due to COVID-19.

“We need to have new money to make up for the fact that we lost a lot of money we didn’t expect to lose,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said Monday morning. “We need a lot more help. They know that. It is crucial to the proper economic recovery of this country that cities should be healthy and not in a situation of financial instability.”

As of Monday noon, Canada reported 91,647 cases of COVID-19, with 7,325 deaths and 49,225 recoveries.