Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (left) and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps out helping support local businesses. (Provided Photo/ City of Victoria)

Victoria mayor challenges residents to cheer from home for frontline workers at 7 p.m. every day

Helps talks small business help, temporary shelter sites and more during her daily COVID-19 update

As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are felt across communities, people in Vancouver have taken to their balconies or windows, banging pots, cheering and making noise to show appreciation for the health care, social services and other frontline workers. Now, Mayor Lisa Helps is challenging Victoria to do the same.

“At 7 p.m. today, and every day let’s open our windows and do a loud round of applause and woot woot for all of the people who are working so hard out there,” she said, during her daily Facebook live update on the city’s work during the pandemic.

Helps started her address on March 24 with a correction, stating the city had misunderstood the province’s recent announcement of tax deferrals which did not include property tax — although Helps says she’s still hopeful.

“This is really important for us, the deferment of property taxes for both residential and commercial businesses until the Sept. 30, so the province hasn’t yet made that decision but we would strongly urge them to do so,” she said.

READ ALSO: B.C. COVID-19 tests up to 3,500 a day, care home staffing to change

On March 23, Premier John Horgan indicated an announcement would be coming with respect to providing help to renters. Prior to Helps’ public update, a special council meeting was held where they considered a motion to declare a local state of emergency — which would allow the city “to find ways to prevent evictions for both residential and commercial tenants” — however, the city will hold off on that motion until they hear more from the province.

“There is no local state of emergency being declared in Victoria. We’re working closely with the province, urging them to take significant action on renters and we’ll watch and see very carefully what they do tomorrow,” she said.

Small business help:

A resource list has been created for small businesses from all levels of government, including from the City. That list can be found at victoria.ca. Every second day, Helps also has a conference call with business leaders to talk about what the city can do immediately and over the longer term to support small businesses. Also, a list of restaurants offering delivery take out has been complied on the city’s website as well.

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce has created a job board — that currently has 54 jobs posted — for people seeking work or workers.

In addition, Helps spoke about a local initiative from 70 tech and marketing businesses who have volunteered to offer pro bono support for any business hoping to transition to an online platform. To access that help visit yyjlocalsforlocals.com.

READ ALSO: Beacon Hill, Topaz, Royal Athletic parks to open as temporary sites for the homeless

Public parks:

Help reminded Victoria residents that all skate and bike parks, basketball and tennis courts, sports fields and outdoor gyms are all closed. Parks can still be enjoyed said Helps, but she asks people to make sure they keep a two metre distance between themselves and anyone else in the area.

Temporary sites for the homeless:

On March 23, Helps announced the city would be opening three parks — Beacon Hill, Topaz and Royal Athletic — as temporary sites for the area’s homeless population.

“Right now we’ve got at least 100 people camped on Pandora, and they don’t have the opportunity to stay at home, they don’t have the opportunity to wash hands … and they don’t have the opportunity for appropriate social distancing,” she said.

Helps said this would also help protect the public, as well as the homeless population.

These locations were chosen due to the proximity to washrooms, appropriate social distancing measures and because some people were already living at these sites, said Helps. The sites are located in small, less frequently used areas of the parks which Helps said was deliberate to allow space for residents to enjoy the park as well.

The second phase of the program will be underway as soon as possible, said Helps. That will see people moved into indoor shelters. “The best news I got today, in terms of vulnerable populations, is that B.C. Housing has ordered 200 beds — and that’s beds, not mats,” she said, adding the beds would arrive on April 1. “By that time hopefully B.C. Housing will have locations secured for sheltering.”



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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