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Council passes unprecedented COVID-19 financial support package for taxpayers and businesses

Clarington June 23, 2020/- During a marathon Committee session culminating in a late-night Council meeting, Clarington Council passed an unprecedented financial support package for taxpayers and business owners negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The support package totals $2 million, with $1 million dedicated to a temporary property tax relief program, and the remaining $1 million going to a Community Improvement Plan to help qualifying businesses.

The property tax relief program will only cover the local, municipal portion of the tax bill, which amounts to roughly 30 per cent of the overall bill. The relief program spans from March 17, when the Province declared an emergency, until June 19, when Clarington entered Stage 2 of Ontario’s reopening framework. Residents will need to apply for the tax relief program and will have to meet strict criteria. The program was passed under a clause in the Municipal Act, which gives a local municipality the authority to refund taxes levied if Council considers the taxes to be “unduly burdensome” on taxpayers. The definition of “unduly burdensome” has been set out by Clarington Council. The tax relief program requires residents to show that the taxes levied are unaffordable and create a financial strain on the overall household income, which may have been cut as a result of the pandemic due to job loss or other circumstances. Taxpayers will have to prove that property taxes levied are higher than five per cent of their overall household income. Also, residents will have to show that the taxes levied amount to more than 20 per cent of their non-registered savings, creating a financial hardship. To qualify for the rebate, residents will have to provide the following documents:

  • bank statements or investment statements for each month of the rebate period (March to June);
  • letters from employers showing job loss;
  • record of employment;
  • notices of assessment or supporting documentation that show receipt of Employment Insurance (EI) or Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments.

If residents meet the conditions outlined in the application process, they will receive a refund cheque from the Municipality. As an example, the annual municipal taxes on a home assessed at $500,000 are $1,965.38. This translates to monthly payments of $163.78, which covers only the local portion of your taxes, and the rebate received would be $655.12.

“It’s important to note that the tax relief program only covers the local portion of your overall tax bill. The bill is divided into three, with 30 per cent dedicated to the Municipality, the rest goes to the Region of Durham and school boards for education. This program is the first of its kind in Clarington. Staff are working on an application process, and more details will be released in the next few weeks,” said Director of Finance Trevor Pinn.

Clarington Council also directed staff to prepare a Municipal-wide Community Improvement Plan (CIP). The CIP will provide support to qualifying business owners to make physical modifications to their businesses to reopen post-pandemic. Businesses will need to demonstrate that they are financially unable to cover the costs of making the safety improvements required by Public Health to reopen safely. The CIP would provide grant funding for a variety of safety measures, including plexiglass barriers to protect staff and customers, signage to encourage spacing, and realignment of displays and work areas to allow for distancing. Businesses will also have to meet the following criteria to qualify for funding:

  • the business will have to show that it was forced to shut down due to the provincial emergency declaration;
  • a restaurant providing takeout that was forced to shut down;
  • the business is independently owned and not part of a national chain;
  • the business owner must meet a financial “means” test and will have to provide income and asset information.

The draft CIP will be brought to Council for final approval, at which point funds will be released to qualifying businesses.

To further support local businesses, staff have also been directed to examine options to close downtown streets and Municipal parking lots to provide outdoor seating for local restaurants to allow for physical distancing. This will be done in consultation with the local business improvement areas.

Finally, as part of this comprehensive COVID-19 relief package, Council also approved a Community Support Program for not-for-profit organizations negatively impacted by the pandemic. The application-based grant program will total $100,000 and will provide financial support to community agencies and volunteer organizations. The program will only assist organizations suffering a loss as a result of program and service closures or reduced fundraising capabilities due to the pandemic.

Further information about the property tax relief program, CIP, and Community Support Program, including the application forms, will be available on Clarington’s dedicated COVID-19 page, www.clarington.net/COVID-19. Stay tuned for more information as it’s released in the next week.

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Media Contact:
Basia Radomski
Communications Manager
905-623-3379 ext. 2214

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