by Matthew Van Dongen Hamilton Spectator
“Our goal is to help businesses get re-established and back on their feet again as soon as possible,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger. – John Rennison
The city is now recruiting for an “economic recovery” task force meant to brainstorm help for pandemic-wrecked Hamilton businesses that have bled thousands of jobs since March.
Council voted Wednesday to give senior city officials the go-ahead to begin recruiting 25-plus task force members from local businesses, chambers of commerce and labour organizations.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger and three councillors — Lloyd Ferguson, Judi Partridge and Nrinder Nann — will also join a group that could be assembled within a couple of weeks.
“Our goal is to help businesses get re-established and back on their feet again as soon as possible,” said the mayor, who noted provincial restrictions due to COVID-19 are expected to be slowly eased in the coming weeks and months.
The task force could meet for up to a year before bringing a final report to council, but Eisenberger said he expects “good ideas” to be acted upon quickly.
The business brainstorming group was discussed Wednesday in tandem with a city survey of 1,040 Hamilton businesses in April that reported the loss of more than 13,000 jobs since emergency restrictions were enacted to combat the spread of the virus. The majority of respondents also reported revenue losses of more than 50 per cent.
The specific mandate of the task force is to come up with an “aggressive, action-driven plan” to help businesses recover, restart and rehire workers in the aftermath of the provincially ordered COVID-19 lockdown.
What kind of “aggressive” actions could the city look at?
The city might look at giving breaks to businesses on taxes, parking or permit fees, or ease access to personal protective equipment. Other recommendations could involve targeted funding requests to the provincial or federal government.
Council has already voted to start studying the possibility of allowing some restaurants to expand patios into sidewalks or streets to help with physical distancing. That would only happen after the province allows restaurants to reopen for dine-in patrons, however.