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Toronto mulls use of federal coronavirus aid

TORONTO — Mayor John Parker hopes federal pandemic funds can be used to boost local businesses that were temporarily shuttered because they were deemed non-essential.

Parker told City Council last week he’s looking into whether a portion of $115,000 awarded to the city through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act may be used to help small businesses struggling with utility or other costs due to lost revenue.

He said it’s clear it can be used to cover the cost of personal protective equipment, cleaning products and wages earned by staff while disinfecting facilities and taking other measures to prevent spread of the virus.

And Parker added it also can be used to offset utility payments waived for businesses with 25 or fewer employees affected by Gov. Mike DeWine’s closing of those deemed non-essential in March and April.

The waiver was available to churches and households with breadwinners being placed on leave because of virus-related government orders.

The mayor said since the waiver was lifted in June, the city’s water, sewer and sanitation customers have resumed payment.

But he believes there still are businesses recovering from the revenue they lost during that time.

Such concerns aside, Parker has supported measures by DeWine to deter spread of COVID-19. He noted Toronto school officials have made plans for students to return to school in person, for five days each week.

Parker said to ensure that can happen and a speedier end to the pandemic, everyone should take precautions, including wearing masks and social distancing.

“I think if everyone would just do their part, we could get there faster,” he said.

On July 27 council also approved new three-year contracts for City Police Chief Randy Hood and City Fire Chief Bill Scheel.

Council President Frank McEwen said the contracts were negotiated by Parker and his staff and included 3 percent per year pay increases in keeping with the raises included in the current contracts for the city’s police officers and firefighters.

McEwen noted negotiations will begin soon with local representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for contracts for staff in the city’s utility office and water, sewer, street and sanitation departments.

Council also approved the $157,000 purchase from O.S. Hill of a new garbage compactor truck for the city. McEwen said the truck will replace one of two trucks in the sanitation department that is due for retirement.

Council’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

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