Victoria will look into its annual budget to reassess spending in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was one element of information provided by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps on March 31, during her daily update to residents on municipal, provincial and federal efforts against the virus.
City councillors pored over the budget for more than 80 hours, Helps said, but in light of current events the $243 million budget for 2020 will need to be reassessed beginning in April.
“We’ll have to look at what will simply not happen this year as a result of COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “We’ll start with that and see how much that will add up to and then need to make some more decisions.”
Helps speculated that there will be differences in the millions of projects being re-prioritized.
Helps also implored the public to listen to the provincial health officer about grocery store etiquette, and to leave reusable bags at home.
“For all those diligent shoppers who like to bring their own shopping bags… unfortunately we’re going to have to ask you to leave your own bags for home for now,” Helps said. “We are working on reinstating our plastic bag bylaw with the province, but that will have to wait until this passes.”
Grocery stores are also prohibiting people form bringing reusable containers for items like bulk food.
Helps also announced that, in partnership with BC Housing, an additional 40 hotel rooms were found to house vulnerable people of Victoria’s homeless population so that they can practise self isolation, bringing the total number of rooms to 115.
Helps discussed how, despite Victoria having the largest population of people who are homeless in the region, many come from across the Capital Region District, meaning that the province should begin seeking out temporary shelters in recreation and community centres across Greater Victoria.
“All of our community centres are providing childcare, those are essential services, so we are running out of options,” she said, noting that this was the reason the City is converting parks into temporary shelter sites rather than somewhere indoors. “I really do think we need to take a regional approach and I hope the province and BC Housing will look into it.”
Helps also is reminding cyclists to practise social distancing after receiving some communications from residents about issues on the Galloping Goose Trail. Helps added that even on bike lanes, now is a time to wait for others to pass and provide them room for proper social distancing.
News from the federal government:
On Monday, March 30 the Capital Regional District learned it would receive $1.3 million in funding to help the homeless through the Reaching Home program. This funding will include $917,880 through the Reaching Home Designated Communities program and $394,972 through the Reaching Home Indigenous Homelessness program.
On Tuesday morning (March 31) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $2 billion budget for three manufacturing companies to create more medical supplies for health care practitioners.
News from the provincial government:
The provincial government has promised more childcare services for essential care workers with pre-school aged children. In an announcement on March 31, the province announced that B.C. licensed child care providers can get up to seven times base funding for stepping up to provide service to parents of pre-school children on the front lines of the COVID-19 emergency effort.
The B.C. government opened a new application system March 31 for parents in essential service roles seeking urgent child care for children five and under. Priority roles are health services, social services, law enforcement, first responders and emergency response. Applications can be found at at gov.bc.ca/essential-service-child-care or calling 1-888-338-6622 and selecting “option four”.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that B.C. has surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with a total of 1,013. There have been five more deaths, bringing the total up to 24. There were zero new cases reported on Vancouver Island, with the total still at 67.
– With files from Katya Slepian and Tom Fletcher