During Wednesday’s town council meeting in Huntsville, Councilors discussed a request for additional funding from the Huntsville BIA and the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce.
The letter was also sent to the District of Muskoka, Lake of Bays Twp, MPP Norm Miller and MP Scott Aitchison.
The letter outlined some of their concerns for the business community. The letter stated that Banks, insurance providers and telephone and internet providers are seeking additional revenue at the expense of the suffering of local businesses.
Councilor Withey took exception to the shot taken to the insurance industry and noted that some markets are returning premiums to clients, and he didn’t feel that statement was accurate.
The Town says they are acting on some of the concerns that they are able to do. The municipality intends to set up distance space and arrows on Main St., as well as installing sanitizing stations on the street. The Town will take over flower maintenance on Main St, which will include watering, mulching and weeding and will also advertise for a Parking Ambassador for the summer.
The Chamber of Commerce requested $30,000 from the town to kick start a marketing campaign to prepare for the re-opening of business and tourism industries. They are also asking that the Huntsville BIA contribute $5,000, the Township of Lake of Bays $10,000, and $30,000 from the Municipal Accommodation Tax Fund.
Council voted and passed the motion to contribute to this initiative.
The full text of the request below:
May 21, 2020
To: Mayor Karin Terziano and Council, Mayor Terry Glover and Council, District Chair John Klink,
MPP Norm Miller and MP Scott Aitchison,
We are writing in response to your roundtable requests with respect to our business community needs. We appreciate your foresight and concern for this important segment of our municipalities and we are committed to working with you to see these appeals come to fruition, and to help rebuild the strength in our business community. The lists herein are ideas that have come from many surveys and discussions with burdened business owners, and we are grateful in advance for
your consideration and reflection.
To ensure that our local economy recovers from this current pandemic as quickly as possible we must create and implement immediate strategies that are collaborative and innovative. We must be willing to partner together to leverage any and all funding available to keep local businesses alive today and to plan effectively for future reopening.
We must be prepared to recognize, however, that this pandemic is not affecting all businesses the same. In fact, some industries are actually thriving in our current business climate. Banks, insurance providers and telephone and internet providers have seen increases in services and profits. It is our position that these companies that are seeing increased revenue at the expense of the suffering of local businesses
should be encouraged to provide relief and/or reimbursements to the business community. If we stand idly by and watch our local businesses close their doors for good, we may never have the opportunity to allow Huntsville to reclaim its place as a premiere tourist destination.
We are writing to request that the Municipal, Provincial and Federal governments cooperate to help alleviate the pressures the business community is sustaining, minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and look forward to economic recovery in the future. If measures are not taken immediately, many of our small and medium size businesses will not survive long enough to reopen and help our collective economy begin to recover. We need to act fast.
This request is on behalf of businesses affected by COVID-19, and we are asking for your support by way of a financial commitment or advocacy.
The following section is a request to the Town of Huntsville and the Township of Lake of Bays. We ask that you please also consider creative solutions to potential legislative limitations.
➢ Health & Safety PPE subsidies:
o Our recommendation is to prioritize the use of the majority of the Town of Huntsville’s
recovery fund for PPE subsidy. Further, we recommend working collaboratively with
our groups to develop a program where businesses can apply to, or be reimbursed
for, PPE expenses including signage, with specific criteria as it relates to funding.
o Acquiring necessary PPE and relevant signage for businesses to reopen safely will place a huge burden on many businesses who have not seen any revenue for months. We are advocating for financial support, such as grants instead of loans, to
allow businesses to obtain the required PPE necessary to operate safely. This is also an enormous opportunity to convey your intention of maintaining Huntsville and Lake of Bays as a safe destination, and a safe environment for front-line staff and
residents. If providing grants is problematic, the Chamber of Commerce is willing to deliver the program on behalf of the municipalities with a specific financial funding MOUs identified collectively.
o This would include, but is not limited to:
▪ Masks, face shields, plexiglass barriers, gloves etc.
▪ Outdoor hand sanitizing stations located strategically Downtown Huntsville
▪ Stencils / stickers on sidewalks – to potentially encourage one-way sidewalks
and social distancing reminders
▪ A best practices and recommendations package for businesses – collect information from different sectors together into a cohesive package to be distributed to the business community
➢ Lake of Bays PPE Support:
o Over and above the signage support the Township is providing we are requesting, on behalf of the Lake of Bays businesses, proportional PPE subsidies as a priority for economic recovery efforts.
➢ Chamber of Commerce Membership Support:
o We are requesting assistance to support the entire business community, of whom we represent, and the longevity of our not-for-profit organization.
o This plan will enable every business in Huntsville and Lake of Bays to become a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Local businesses rely on membership services and support the Chamber provides and this is an opportunity to extend this
support to our struggling business community.
o It is important to assist businesses that are “falling through the cracks” by providing these services to them at no cost. Through these programs there are tangible economic savings and extending these benefits to our entire business community will provide much needed support for recovery.
o Many current members are unable to pay their fees and are not only in danger of losing their membership, they are in danger of facing exponential increases in business expenses as a result of losing access to important benefits.
o Businesses will qualify for multiple cost-saving programs such as:
First Data Merchant Services (Visa and Debit) Group Insurance Plans Payworks Payroll and HR Services UPS Members Benefit Program Esso Business Card Program Social Media Promotion
Home & Auto Insurance Offers Tourism Office Displays
Online Business Directory Exposure Business Referrals
Reduced rates and access to Member-to Member Emails
Webinars & Templates for COVID-19 recovery and more
o It is important to mention that this is not a membership drive. This is an opportunity for businesses to become engaged and connected, and to ensure that all businesses
can obtain the services and support the Chamber offers.
o This proposal will not only provide much needed support to every individual business in our community, but will also support the viability and sustainability of the Chamber.
o We estimate that 70% of our membership has been affected by COVID-19 and are therefore requesting a one-time appeal of $57,000 from the Town of Huntsville and $6,500 from the Township of Lake of Bays to support the local business community.
➢ Collaborative Recovery Marketing Campaign:
o A marketing campaign designed to kickstart our economy and prepare for the re-opening of the business and tourism industries. This plan is a multi-pronged approach in order to mitigate the risk of future unknown circumstances and to
ensure maximum results are achieved with the available dollars.
o A detailed plan and budget proposal have been submitted to accompany this letter.
➢ Resume all downtown services (eg. parking ambassador and flower maintenance)
➢ Partner with businesses to reduce park fees (eg. yoga on the docks) and support outdoor patios if requested.
➢ Property tax reimbursement or waived (Municipal, District portions)
o The business community has recommended that a consideration for tax relief for a period of four months be completely waived.
o Short-term deferrals offer immediate relief but are actually just putting off expenses for a few months. Many businesses will experience a slow recovery of revenue in the coming months, making it almost impossible to pay for any deferrals they received all at once.
o Advocate Provincially that property tax rules be amended for these extreme circumstances – Municipalities are reporting that the Provincial Municipal Act does not allow them to provide property tax discounts or redemptions. In this case we
urge the Province to consider making temporary changes to the Municipal Act so that individual Municipalities are free to provide these reliefs to businesses in need.
➢ Rent Relief
o The CECRA is not yet taking applications and commercial property owners have their own cash flow difficulties. For some businesses even 25% of their rent payment will still be too much. Further rent relief or some form of immediate rent assistance is required to stop some businesses from closing in the next 30-60 days.
To the Governments of Ontario & Canada, please consider the following:
➢ HST forgiveness
o While we recognize that HST payments have been deferred, deferrals again just postpone these payments and place struggling businesses that are just starting to reopen in financial difficulty when multiple deferrals come due. We are asking for the following forgiveness plan to be considered to truly help businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 manage limited cash flow.
o 100% (Feb until June), 50% (July to October), 25% (November to December)
➢ Utilities – subsidize/reduce, advocate to each utility (March-July)
o Hydro costs have been reduced through time of use adjustment, but there are many other utility bills that have not been lowered or, in some cases, have actually increased.
o Internet & cellular services are an essential service during this pandemic as businesses have been forced to move everything from meetings to sales online.
However, rather than provide discounts many providers have actually increased their fees for service. A reduction of fees or a subsidy to help pay these costs will stimulate growth and encourage companies to develop online platforms they can
continue to use after the economy reopens, creating a more stable economy in the future.
o Other Municipal fees such as water and sewer bills should also be the subject of reductions or subsidies to similarly help businesses restart and manage cash flow in the short term.
o Garbage fee suspension or reduction is another way Municipalities can help their local businesses recover as quickly as possible.
➢ Bank and Visa fees reimbursed
o Most banks and credit card companies have seen significant revenue increases, especially with debt and interest payments. We would ask that at the very least these companies waive and reimburse banking fees to help businesses recover.
➢ Insurance premium reduction/reimbursement for the period when affected
o Many of our businesses have been closed for weeks and their insurance needs have been greatly reduced, but there are few if any rebates on tenant and property insurance premiums to reflect this reduced usage.
o On April 16 Doug Ford enabled auto insurance companies to provide premium rebate relief to drivers, but many providers have not done so or are making it difficult to qualify.
➢ Corporate Tax – Federal/Provincial
o Similar to HST, many taxes have been deferred, but reductions or forgiveness of taxes will truly help businesses recover.
➢ Emergency Loan – increase amount forgiven if paid on time
o While the CEBA provides short-term access to working capital, many businesses can not afford to take on the prospect of even a $30,000 loan payment should they be able to receive the $10,000 forgiveness. An increase in the amount forgivable, to $20,000, would make it more feasible for small businesses to take advantage of this program.
➢ Chambers of Commerce and Not-for-Profit Sector:
o Please refer to our appeal to the municipalities above, and kindly consider further support to us to enable a strengthened business community.
While we realize that a number of these areas are outside conventional government jurisdiction, we are asking for you to advocate on behalf of business and to bring your significant influence to bear on these issues. Banks and utilities, for example, need to understand that if they do not offer
true relief to businesses instead of simply deferring some payments, they will experience a significant loss of their customer base due to businesses closing or filing for bankruptcy. SME’s are the backbone of the Canadian economy. We recognize that the government has put measures
in place to help these businesses, but we believe that further action is required if businesses in our community are to come out of this pandemic strong and ready to stoke the fires of our economy once more.
Thank you for your consideration. We commit to supporting you in every initiative as we recognize that this is a shared responsibility. We look forward to hearing from you so we can further discuss how we can assist in building our business communities.
Scott Acton Huntsville/Lake of Bay Chamber of Commerce Rachel Hunt Downtown Huntsville BIA