News Release – Mayor Johansen Covid-19 Update
April 17, 2020
The Town of Oliver would like to thank the Province of B.C. for the new financial relief measures announced yesterday morning (April 16) by Ministers Carole James and Selina Robinson. These measures are a positive step to mitigating the economic hardship for people, businesses and municipalities during these difficult times. Two relief items that Minister Robinson requested be highlighted to our residents are the available Temporary Rent Supplement as well as the Property Tax Deferment Program available to individuals 55 or older and families with children. I encourage you to visit the Towns COVID-19 website for current information on all Provincial announcements as they become available.
As announced during last week the Town has also taken action to support citizens and businesses. The first of these measures to roll out is a 50% subsidized credit on the first quarter utility bills which will be in the mail next week. Council views this credit as an investment in our community and encourages residents to re-direct these savings back into the community where they are able to do so. Shopping local is a great way to support independent businesses who are the backbone of our community’s economic stability.
I want to assure our residents the utility credit approved by Council is well within the Town of Oliver’s financial capacity. The Town is benefiting from years of strong financial leadership and is well positioned to manage the financial challenges we are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of 2019, the Town had in excess of $8 Million in reserves. While these reserves have been identified for specific purposes, we are experiencing exceptional circumstances where these reserves may need to be used in support of the Town’s operational needs. Council does have the authority through B.C.’s property tax framework response to COVID-19 to appropriate any of these reserves, however any decision to do so will not be taken lightly. We have a core responsibility to make sure any financial decisions do not negatively impact the future needs and obligations of this municipality and its citizens.
Another topic getting a lot of discussion is out of Province, domestic farm workers. This issue has been raised by myself, the Mayor of Osoyoos and the Mayor of Keremeos to Minister Selina Robinson during our weekly conference calls. The message is this is a serious concern especially in terms of community transmission and the potential to overload our local health care system.
While there are significant requirements in place for farms to follow regarding the health and safety of foreign and domestic farm workers, the concern is when farm workers are travelling between farms or not living on farms. Be assured the Town is working with our regional, municipal and provincial partners to address this shortfall in a proactive manner. The best way to stop a COVID-19 outbreak in our communities is to prevent it and we will do everything within the regulations to protect our citizens as the fruit harvesting season unfolds.
Town of Oliver
250 485 6200