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Calgary approves additional cash for COVID-19 business relief

Calgary businesses will get further COVID-19 relief from the city, based on their size and duration of closure.

City administration came back with a plan to use a remaining $12.4 million in COVID-19 relief funding. It was part of an overall $30 million strategy to give a boost to city businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

Earlier, $17.6 million to business licensing and related fees for two years, starting in 2021.

This plan would provide grants of different amounts to business sectors most impacted by closure during the pandemic.  Initially, it was a blanket application that would allow for up to $2,500 for restaurants, pubs, bars, entertainment establishments (including nightclubs) and fitness centres.  

Coun. Evan Woolley said he didn’t like the recommendations proposed because it wasn’t nuanced enough. He said direction to city admin was specific to support these businesses.

“I’m actually pretty disappointed with this, we had asked for some pretty specific direction to bring forward options, particularly related to some small businesses that we know have been particularly impacted,” he said.

During the afternoon break, councillors crafted a revised version that would see restaurants, pubs and bars qualify for the $2,500 grant. This was because many of them were still able to operate in some fashion during the pandemic.

Fitness facilities can apply for grants to a maximum program allocation of $3 million. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said they’d estimated the number of these at roughly 400, so that could be worth $7,500 each.

Finally, $500,000 was set aside for entertainment establishments in Calgary (including nightclubs). An application process will be set up.  In a city release, the total outlined would be $15.9 million in relief.

‘Best we can do with the tools we have’: Coun. Sutherland

Coun. Ward Sutherland said that they heard from the business community that something had to be done. They didn’t want to pick winners and losers, but Sutherland said no matter what you do, someone’s not going to be happy.

“Of course, you have to pick some people to help, and determine who’s best to help, but doing nothing is actually worse,” Sutherland said.

“I hope you can support this in the concept that this is the best we can do for the tools that we have.”

Also included in the relief plan is tax deferral for the city’s hotel and motel industry. Now taxes can be deferred through Dec. 31, 2022.

“On behalf of Calgary’s hotels, especially the almost 50 per cent that are family-owned businesses in in our great city, we appreciate the efforts of City Council and City management to allow hotel and motel property owners who have been unable to pay their 2021 property taxes to be considered for a deferral of 2021 property taxes by this new program, without penalties, to December 31, 2022,” said Sol Zia, Executive Director of the Calgary Hotel Association.

Details on the plans and application will be available through the city’s website.