As Ontario wades through a second wave of the pandemic, city councillors have agreed to put another $150,000 into Barrie’s COVID-19 economic recovery action plan.
A motion was approved at General Committee Monday night to spend $75,000 to leverage and apply for provincial and federal funding programs that will bring additional money and supports to local business response and recovery.
Another $75,000 will be spent for a pilot partnership with Georgian College to assist businesses with their recovery.
A staff report says between Barrie’s initial response plan and the recovery action plan, with additional funding programs through the Small Business Centre, 20 actions have been delivered, 11 actions are in-progress and two have been explored with a total investment of about $500,000.
The report laid out the investment highlights:
- Business Recovery Support Kits (500 distributed to local businesses): $18,000
- #Barrietogether shop local campaign and key marketing programs in collaboration with Access Barrie: $35,000
- Going Digital Program: $5,000
- Food Safety Training and Certification for Business and Employees: $1,500 shared cost
- Hey Local Digital Online Platform: $6,500
- Retained investment in 2020 Arts & Culture Grant Program: $339,750
- Digital Mainstreet Programs: $50,000
- Culture Days: $30,000
The Business in the Parks program will be extended until the end of the year, even though demand for the program has not been high. The program allows businesses to book time to use Meridian Place or the Kiwanis Pavilion at Southshore Park for their business activity, using the outdoor space.
The City will hold month-long consultations beginning the week of Nov. 9 to see how businesses have been fairing since lockdown measures have eased, in order to gauge key needs, challenges in recovery and building resilience strategies, and how various factors such as government subsidies and back-to-school have impacted operations as a result of the second wave. Members of the public will also be able to offer feedback and suggestions through the City’s website.
The staff report paints a rosy picture of Barrie’s unemployment rate between April and September of this year, which averaged 9.97 per cent, while the provincial rate was about 10.92 per cent and the federal rate was 11.1 per cent. As well, Barrie had the best performance on employment of any Canadian Census Metropolitan Area every month since April 2020, which staff suggest is likely due to a growing local labour force and Barrie companies effectively maintaining or growing their workforce.
At the same time, the staff report does not sugarcoat the impact COVID-19 has had on certain areas of the local economy, with tourist, arts and culture, and service-based sectors especially hard hit.