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Grey County predicts $1.1M deficit due to COVID

Grey County’s long-term care department budget has been the hardest hit with a projected deficit of $1.37 million
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Grey County is estimating the financial impact of COVID will result in a year-end deficit of $1.1 million.

“We started tracking all of our COVID-related expenses back in March,” said Kevin Weppler, director of corporate services for Grey County. “We are projecting an almost $1.1 million deficit and that is utilizing the surpluses from other departments in order to try to assist with this COVID-related deficit.”

The projections are the staff's best estimate based on revenues and expenditures up until April 30.

County departments that are projected to see a deficit at the end of 2020 include workers compensation, provincial offences, long-term care (LTC), and paramedic services.

Weppler says the Grey Bruce Health Unit is projected to see $250,000 in additional COVID-related expenditures, but notes the provincial government is expected to cover this expense.

“The provincial government has announced that the health unit’s expenditures related to COVID-19 will be funded by the province if they exceed the health unit’s 2020 budget,” he explained.

The county’s LTC department is currently looking at a deficit of $1.37 million.

“Over the past two months the COVID pandemic has had a significant impact on the finance and operations of Grey’s LTC department,” Weppler said.

“The financial impacts of COVID are also difficult to predict at this time, given the uncertainty of provincial funding regarding extraordinary expenditures, the unknown duration of this pandemic and how long the safeguards will have to remain in place,” he added.

LTC expenditures related to COVID including spending for additional staff, PPEs, equipment to support infection protection, and screening and testing measures.

Weppler also warned that if an outbreak were to occur in one of the LTC homes, projections could become a lot higher. 

Grey County Warden Paul McQueen encouraged staff to move forward with whatever the LTC department currently needs.

“For our LTC facilities, we certainly do not want to spare any expense to keep our vulnerable residents safe,” he said. “Moving forward, we want to stay on track with what we have been doing and adjust [budgets] at the end of the year.”

Paramedic services is expected to see a $985,000 shortfall associated with COVID. This expense is also expected to be mitigated by provincial funding, however, the details are not known at this time.

A number of departments within the county are predicted to end the year with a surplus, including administration, council, information services, property, planning, Grey Roots, and Ontario Works.

The surplus has evolved due to a number of variables, including the shift to virtual meetings, reduction of meetings and reduced travel expenses. The county currently plans to re-allocate these funds to cover COVID-deficits in other departments. 

The county will also be looking at shifting approximately $817,700 from its capital projects budget to help offset COVID expenses.

The surplus in the capital projects budget is a result of a number of planned projects that have been cancelled due to COVID.

County staff also report that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Association of Municipalities of Ontario are currently undertaking a number of lobbying efforts for further financial support from the federal government.

“I find it interesting that we are being surveyed for our costs. That reassures me that they are looking at something for paramedic services at least,” Weppler added. 

Weppler also says that the county could look at utilizing additional provincial gas tax funds if needed.

“It is an avenue that we can fund these deficits if no federal funding comes our way,” he added.

Jennifer Golletz

About the Author: Jennifer Golletz

Jennifer Golletz covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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