The COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns created a need for economic and community-wide recovery. Lethbridge City Council recognized this and established the Lethbridge Community & Economic Recovery Committee of Council nearly six months ago.
Through its four Task Forces, the Committee has collaborated with local businesses, community organizations and provincial and federal governments to create opportunities to support the local economy, social needs and community recovery.
"One area of focus has been on economic relief efforts to support the Lethbridge community during this pandemic, but we are also looking forward to a post-pandemic environment," says Councillor Belinda Crowson, who is chair of the Community and Economic Recovery Committee. "Through various municipal fiscal supports, as well as our promotion to support local, we are trying to provide financial stability."
So, what has been done to support residents and businesses? Some of the activities of the committee are outlined below:
- Implemented a revised and expanded Patios, Parklets and Street Vending Program which included: a clear handbook, streamlined approval processes, grant funding, and removed winter date to allow winter operation
- Determined priorities for Municipal Stimulus Program Funding – (Sept. 28, 2020 approval)
- Determined priorities for Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program Funding – (Sept. 28, 2020 approval)
- Red Tape Reduction: implemented a new land use application, new development permit application, and new development permit checklist
- Deferral Request Framework Policy for granting of a request for a deferral of a payment by an organization – (Policy CC63 amended July 27, 2020)
- Bylaw 6226 (passed April 6, 2020) to defer utility penalties until June 19, 2020
- Bylaw 6227 (passed May 4, 3030) to defer tax penalties until Oct. 1, 2020
- Supported the modification of the Downtown Farmers' Market to a new location that allowed better site control with numbers and points of access with COVID-19 in mind
- Implementation of the new Downtown Brand was pivoted to tie directly into the reopening of Downtown from COVID-19
- Heart of Our City Activity Grant pivoted to allocate funding towards online events that were held or promoted the downtown by non-profits and businesses
- Limited parking enforcement in downtown until Sept. 1, 2020
- Free transit until Aug. 4, 2020
- Increase to the amount available for the Recreation and Culture Fee Assistance Program until Dec. 31 2020. This allows community members to access more funds, made more community members eligible for funding support, and supports the businesses and organizations in that sector by helping them to regrow their membership/customer base.
- Minimize training and travel by City employees until December 31, 2020
Some of the next steps the committee is working on include:
- City Council to consider Development Based Incentive Program to support business owners and investors totaling $4,015,475
- City Council to consider freezing increases to Offsite Levy Bylaw
- Continue to promote red tape reduction
The Lethbridge Community & Economic Recovery Committee of Council meets weekly on Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. More information on the committee is here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Boards-Commissions-Committees/Pages/Lethbridge-Community-and-Economic-Recovery-Committee-of-Council.aspx