Grey County is waiting to hear if some federal and provincial money will come in to help offset its $1.1 million deficit due to COVID-19 related expenses.
With no official end to the pandemic on the horizon, extra safety measures could be in place for quite some time and Director of Corporate Services Kevin Weppler says the two services that are seeing the biggest impact are long-term care and paramedic services.
He says following Provincial directives has its associated costs, "That's been a challenge and based on those directives, we've had to put into place, extra staffing. We've had to do more cleaning."
Weppler notes the the County has had to increase the purchase of cleaning supplies and plenty of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as increased laundry costs of some of that PPE.
"Plus we've bought equipment to help control infection spread and help with screening," adds Weppler.
He explains, "If we didn't have savings in other departments, or in Transportation's capital, (as well as surpluses in Council and Administration) between Long-Term Care and Paramedic Services that are looking at almost $2.4 million (combined) we would have been that high, but, due to the savings and expenditures not occurring for various reasons because of COVID, we're looking at a net corporate deficit of about $1.1 million."
A staff report says Council's budget is projected to have a year-end surplus of about $58,000 due to savings in salaries, benefits, food and travel expenses because people aren't going to conferences right now. "That's happening not only in the council, but other departments," says Weppler.
Weppler says if there's no other funding, they'll use federal gas tax funds that are in reserve. "We could then go and use, and apply to some of the construction projects that we had budgeted this year and that would free up taxation money that would apply to those construction jobs in 2020, and we would then use that to fund the deficit. "
But the County would prefer not to do that,"We were counting on that federal gas tax for future capital projects to keep working away at our infrastructure here," says Weppler, adding, "It's not ideal but it would be a measure we could do to help offset this deficit."
"It's hard to project the impacts of this COVID-19 pandemic when we're not sure how much provincial funding we're going to get for these extraordinary expenditures.
For example, for long-term care the province has announced funding from March to May for long-term care but we haven't any other indications how much more funding we'll get to the end of the year.
He says the other unknown is the duration of this pandemic, and how long the provincial restrictions that have been put in place to try and control the pandemic will last.
"Any additional money we could get from not only the Province but the Federal government as well to help with this would be very welcome by us here at the County," says Weppler.