Chester announces action, programs to help the community through the pandemic

by Charles Mandel

The Municipality of Chester (MOC) council said it has earmarked relief funding to help area residents, nonprofit organizations and businesses impacted by COVID-19.

"These are trying times for all of our communities and households. The situation continues to evolve and change as we receive new information and directives from the Province of Nova Scotia about COVID-19," Warden Allen Webber, said in a news release on March 19.

"Many of our residents and businesses are deeply impacted by closures and reduced services. On behalf of council, we are asking for your patience and continued understanding."

MOC said the structure of the funding programs will be developed further in the coming days, and is expected to cover any gaps in federal and provincial funding through supports for residents, commercial customers, and non-profits organizations.

Immediate steps taken by Council at their meeting were to delay distribution of the interim tax bill for one month; to extend the deadline for Low Income Tax Exemption Policy applications until June 30, 2020; and to double the budgeted amount for low income tax exemption for fiscal year 20/21 with increases to both income thresholds and rebate amounts.

Other actions include establishing a one-time emergency grant to non-profit organizations with facilities that are negatively impacted by COVID-19 up to $1000/month to a maximum of $5000 per organization; to increase council grants to $50,000; and to explore opportunities to alleviate financial stress for the small-business sector.

Program details will be shared as they develop. Other support measures could be identified as this situation unfolds and will be rolled out using the Municipality's website at www.chester.ca/covid-19 and social media accounts.

Municipal Offices will close effective March 20, 2020 and will remain closed for the time being.

Any meetings that occur (Council/Committee of the Whole) are closed to public. Some staff have been authorized to work from home so that many services, such as filing permit applications, can continue.

Customers can contact staff and departments they have always contacted using regular telephone numbers and email addresses.

Services, such as waste collection and wastewater treatment will continue. The Public Drop-off at Kaizer Meadow Landfill will close on Saturdays effective March 28, but open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with limited staffing.

All municipal facilities are closed, including parks, playgrounds, the Green Gym and Skate Park. The trail is still open to users.

For a list of resources or information about COVID-19, visit www.novascotia.ca/coronavirus. For local information and resources, visit www.chester.ca/covid-19 or " Lean On Me – Making Municipal Connections," a municipal-administered Facebook group connecting those in need with those willing to help, which will be up and running shortly.

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