Hamilton Spectator: COVID-19: Support needed for renters amid crisis, Mayor Fred Eisenberger says

Posted March 27, 2020

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger is praising the federal and provincial governments for their multibillion-dollar COVID-19-related funding packages, but says more is needed.
"Fantastic help for individuals and businesses in our community," Eisenberger said during a news conference Thursday.
But the mayor flagged "two negatives" in this week's funding commitments.
"I didn't hear anything about supports for renters in our community, and I think that's something that the province at some point will have to address."
The second gap is a lack of direct support for municipalities, which face increasing expenses, as they ramp up efforts to respond to the coronavirus crisis, Eisenberger said.
Parliament passed an emergency bill Wednesday that puts $107 billion on the table to help, including $52 billion in health-care spending and direct aid such as top-ups to child benefits and GST rebates, as well as payments to workers who have lost their income because of COVID-19.
Another $55 billion is earmarked for tax deferrals, allowing businesses and individuals to put off paying tax bills for several months.
Meanwhile, Ontario introduced a $17-billion package to support the province through the COVID-19 outbreak, including an influx of cash for the health sector, direct payments to parents and tax breaks for businesses.
Eisenberger's call for tenant support echoes the campaigns of anti-poverty groups are pushing the government to help out tenants, who must cut landlord cheques come April. 1.
Hamilton ACORN says tenants are "panicking" and is demanding an "immediate rent break" for Ontario tenants.
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said no evictions are allowed during the crisis." If you can't pay rent and you are in an absolute crisis, you don't have to pay rent."
Ford also urged those who have jobs not to "take advantage" of the situation. "This is for the people who are most in need."
For property taxpayers in Hamilton, options for relief are expected to be presented to council during the week of April 6, Paul Johnson, director of the city's Emergency Operations Centre, said Wednesday.
The goal is to establish a program in time for the next tax bill instalment, which is April 30, Johnson noted.
Eisenberger also referred to the city's initiative with Hamilton's three chambers of commerce to compile information about government resources on a website, HamiltonChamber.ca/covid19.
On Thursday, city officials had several COVID-19-related announcements:
• Staff are putting up signs at playgrounds in city parks warning the structures can't be used because they're not sanitized and encourage people to not congregate.
• Bennetto Community Centre is being used to shelter homeless people should they test positive for COVID-19.
• Johnson noted "disturbing interactions" parking officers have had with some residents. The city must enforce unsafe parking, such as in front of fire hydrants, he said. "So I'm asking the public to have some compassion for the folks that are doing that job."
• Pedestrian signals at high-traffic intersections, including around hospitals, urgent care centres and COVID-19 assessment centres, will no longer need to be activated by pushing buttons. The crosswalk lights have been reprogrammed to change automatically, except for audible signals, which pedestrians still must activate themselves.
Article by Teviah Moro for the Hamilton Spectator


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