Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is pleading with the public to stay inside during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her daily update on Monday, March 30, Helps echoed the words of Victoria Police Chief Del Manak — after VicPD was called to several parties over the weekend — who asked people to stay inside to protect themselves, their loved ones and officers.
Helps said she received reports of people playing basketball as well.
“There’ll be time for partying, there’ll be time for basketball — that time is not now,” she said.
Last week, bylaw officers were given the power to help ensure and enforce compliance with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s, provincial health officer, orders. Helps said the city’s bylaw officers “were fully tapped out” dealing with sheltering problems for the vulnerable population and that she was in discussion with Emergency Management B.C. to determine who would pay if more bylaw officers were hired.
“Just don’t gather, don’t give us reason to hire more bylaw officers,” she said. “Just follow the rules because not doing so is really costly, not only to public health … but it’s costly from a bottom line point of view … we don’t want to spend more taxpayer dollars so just follow the rules.”
In addition to asking people to “do the right thing” and stay inside, Helps asked people to be mindful of those who are visually impaired and can’t see whether appropriate social distances are put in place.
“We’re all learning a lot about each other’s needs and points of view in this health emergency, and that’s just a reminder if you see someone who’s visually impaired make the social distance for them,” she said.
Helps said the second phase of the temporary shelter plan for the city’s homeless population would begin soon and had already begun in some instances. People living in tents in the 900-block of Pandora Avenue are being moved to either Topaz Park or Royal Athletic Park, with the plan of eventually getting them indoors either in hotel rooms or facilities.
“In a public health emergency, no one should be living outside,” she said.
Over the weekend, 27 people were moved into the 35 hotel rooms the city secured last week through Emergency Management B.C. Helps, 40 more hotel rooms have been identified.
“Social service providers will be out in the community today and in the coming days, identifying people to move into those rooms,” she said.
People with high needs such as complex mental health or substance use issues will be moved to Royal Athletic Park where services will be provided to support them — “and then into other indoor opportunities as they become available.”
News from the federal government
On March 30, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clarified a number of aspects of the recently announced wage subsidy for COVID-19 affected businesses, which has now been expanded to all Canadian companies and charities that have seen a 30 per cent drop in revenues. Companies who qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will be able to get 75 per cent of each employee’s salary covered, on the first $58,700 earned this year, Trudeau said. He also urged companies that could, to top up employee salaries the additional 25 per cent.
Helps noted the program would be retroactive to March 15, along with thanks Trudeau and the government.
News from the provincial government:
On March 27, the provincial government announced a new $3-million fund for artists and arts and cultural organizations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Dubbed the Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement, the BC Arts Council will provide “operating and eligible project clients” up to $15,000 in early April “to help them pay their bills.” Starting in April 2020, the BC Arts Council will also provide operating clients a 50% advance on 2020-21 funding to help with their cash flow.
“We all know that one of the things that make Victoria so special is our arts and culture scene, the events, the festivals, all of the things that happen and this small injection of funding from the provincial government will make a big difference in Victoria,” said Helps.
— With files from Alex Browne, Katya Slepian