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Alberta cities, towns to get $1.1 billion in COVID-19 aid

Alberta will match federal funding for municipalities, shoring up budget shortfalls across the province due to COVID-19 revenue loss.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will provide $19 billion to provinces and territories and the funding will be focused on seven priority areas – including aid for municipalities.

On Tuesday, the province announced their part of $1.1 billion funding for Alberta towns and cities. It will come as $500 million in funding for “shovel ready” projects and $233 million to help offset operating costs for cities. The $233 million is a matching amount to the federal cash in the Safe Restart agreement.

There’s an additional $70 million to cover public transit revenue shortfalls as well. Calgary and Edmonton will see the bulk of the cash.

The finance minister is expected to provide a fiscal update about a month from now, and the provincial deficit for this year is expected to come in at more than $20 billion.

“Let’s remember that today’s deficits are tomorrow’s taxes,” said Kenney.

“But right now, in the face of the deepest jobs crisis in nearly a century, we must prudently leverage the province’s balance sheet to diversify and to create jobs to build and ensure a strong economic future.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that the city is excited to get to work on a long list of projects.

“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced Alberta’s municipalities into a position where we need operating assistance for the first time ever,” he said.

“This partnership will not only allow us to meet our immediate operating concerns, but will also create jobs while providing needed infrastructure within our city. When we say, ‘we’re all in this together,’ this announcement is proof that it’s more than just words.”

Early on, Calgary projected to have a budget shortfall of $235 million or more if the coronavirus pandemic lasts until the end of 2020.

Recreational facilities were closed and Calgary Transit revenues were devastated, with losses in the millions per month.

Recently transit ridership was pegged at 25 per cent of normal, up from a low of 10 per cent of normal ridership.

“Our CTrain ridership at its major was as low as 90% lower than it normally would be,” said Mayor Nenshi.

He also said that despite all measures and cuts, the city is looking at a deficit that could approach $400 million by the end of this year.

“This investment will provide municipalities with the funding they need to get through this crisis, create good jobs now, and build the infrastructure that will fuel economic growth in our province for generations to come,” said Premier Jason Kenney.