Mayor to small business: “We’re willing to work with you”

"Sorry We're Closed" sign. (Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels)

When Windsor City Council meets Monday afternoon, Mayor Drew Dilkens will introduce an urgent item designed to help small businesses through the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.

He wants councillors to consider a host of measures to keep those hit hardest afloat over the coming weeks and months.

The list includes extending free parking from 15 minutes to an hour, waiving fees on sidewalk cafes and patios, and allowing more time for businesses to pay their annual license fees.

Dilkens also thinks temporary relief for advertising, lease revenues, and sponsorships should be on the table.

“These support items for businesses are in addition to the support being offered by the government of Ontario through the COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant, which provides up to $10,000,” he said.

Weeks ago, the President of the Windsor Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce warned some businesses will not survive more restrictions. Rakesh Naidu said, on average, they are $180,000 in debt.

The request comes as the city faces a $25-million budget shortfall as pandemic-related expenses add up and revenues fall short.

Dilkens could not say how much the measures would cost the city.

“It’s hard to answer the question because we don’t know how many folks will take us up on this offer,” he said. “All in all, I think we can manage these costs.

He estimates the city could lose about $55,000 in revenue by waiving fees. Extending free parking would cost another $4,000. Other measures, deferring property tax, for example, will be paid eventually.

Dilkens is still waiting for a response from the provincial and federal governments about financial relief. They did last year.

He remains undaunted.

“We get that there’s pain here, and we want to do our part on some of the things and costs that we can control,” Dilkens explained.