---Quebec government announces COVID-19 relief funds for municipalities and public transit
On September 25, the Quebec government announced $2.3 billion in aid for municipalities in the province, with $1.3 billion put aside for public transit. The aid is intended to help municipalities cover the costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, mayor of Gatineau, welcomed the announcement and expressed his thanks to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Andrée Laforest, according to his statement issued on September 25. He added that the financial aid will help cover a significant portion of the costs associated with COVID-19 and will ensure the Société de transport de l'Outaouais can continue to provide transit services in Gatineau.
According to a study released by the Union Des Municipalités Du Québec (UMQ), municipalities in Quebec could expect financial losses that range between $953 million and $1.2 billion, by the end of the year. This loss in revenue is the result of a decrease in parking, ticketing, investments, local tourism, events and public transit use, which accounts for 54 per cent of the loss in municipal earnings.
Suzanne Roy, president of the UMQ and mayor of Sainte-Julie, says the aid package is adequate for the moment but remains cautious about the extent of future need. The end of federal government assistance programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program for small business will have an impact on local economies, she said. Roy also points to the uncertainty about the second wave of the pandemic and the effect that uncertainty has on the business sector.
Francis Martel, media relations advisor at the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, says that Montreal is a city that was hit hard by the first wave of the pandemic and is a region that is definitely in the biggest need.
More information will be provided in the following weeks about how much money each municipality will receive, according to Minister Laforest. She said the calculation will take population into account and will go to municipalities that were impacted the most by COVID-19.