COVID-19 Update: Local Emergency, Fare-Free Transit & Tax Relief
I have a big update for you. Today, the Mayor and Council met to discuss and vote on major changes to the way we are handling our response to COVID-19. The decisions we made today are to help alleviate the financial and emotional stress we are all feeling right now. Our number one priority is providing essential city services to Edmontonians.
First, today we declared a State of Local Emergency. This is a legal decision that provides us with greater tools for stronger and quicker responses to emerging community issues as a result of COVID-19, especially for our vulnerable communities. We are living in extraordinary times and these are extraordinary measures. But it is these measures that will help us to manage and minimize the impact of this virus in our city. I will ask Edmontonians to continue watching out for each other, to continue to follow the advice of our health professionals, and know that we are doing everything we can to watch out for you.
Transit and Parking
In order to make our public transit system as safe as possible for commuters, we have made some major changes to ETS. Effective tomorrow, March 21st, we have suspended all transit fares or need for a transit pass or transfer and all entry must be through the rear door. We have also suspended the need to pay for parking.
As you may be aware, ETS has committed to deploy larger buses equipped with driver shields to protect operators through a physical barrier and greater social distancing. To accomplish this ETS will need to adjust route 302 in Ward 4 so larger buses can operate on community roads. Henwood Treatment Centre will no longer be serviced by route 302 effective March 19. Henwood Treatment Centre has been made aware of this change. If you rely on route 302 to get to the Henwood Centre and do not have another way of getting there, please email or call my office. We will help you. These adjustments ensure we have healthy staff needed to consistently and reliably run service across the city in the uncertain weeks ahead so most Edmontonians who need transit still have access to it.
Tax and Utility Bill Deferrals
We also voted unanimously to provide you tax relief. I know so many of us are going through a tough time right now so we need to do our part to take a little weight off your shoulders. We are deferring your property tax deadline by two months, to September 1. We are also deferring your utility bills by three months. You will still receive your bill in May, asked to pay in June, but will not be penalized until September.
EPCOR has also announced that they are allowing customers who are struggling to defer their payments for three months and move you onto a payment plan if need be. All of the details can be found here.
For both tax deferrals and utility bill deferrals, these exemptions are NOT automatic. If you are in need of deferral, please contact the City of Edmonton tax department or EPCOR.
Protection for our Most Vulnerable
Did you know that there are over 1600 people in Edmonton that are very vulnerable to this virus, and it’s because they don’t have a home? Our shelters are crowded and there were very few measures helping organizations could take to prevent the spread of the disease within the community. Well, we finally got a decision from the province about shelter for these folks. We will be able to use the Edmonton Expo Centre as a housing and centre. More information here.
These times can seem scary, but the truth is that by taking as many steps as possible now, we are actually going to flatten the curve to ensure the safety of our friends and family and neighbours by helping those who are vulnerable.
We will help those who need help and get through together.
If you have questions or concerns, please send all requests for the next several weeks via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a Ward 4 emergency, please call 780-910-4447.