Municipalities have experienced significant financial impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada are providing operating funding support to municipalities through the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST). This funding is provided as part of the Safe Restart Agreement.
This program will support municipalities by funding incremental costs and reduced revenues associated with the pandemic and actions taken in response to it.
- $436 million will be shared by all municipalities in Alberta based on their population, including $10 million reserved for the tourism communities of Banff, Jasper and Canmore.
- $140 million will be shared by municipalities with public transit systems based on annual ridership statistics.
- $30 million was previously allocated to municipalities as part of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) Operating program, with greatly expanded flexibility for the use of this year’s program funds.
Municipalities and Metis Settlements are automatically eligible for MOST, and only need to sign a simple funding agreement to access their funds. No applications are required.
Submitting the signed memorandum of agreement to us will trigger payment.
The agreement must be signed by the chief elected official and chief administrative officer of the municipality and returned to us at [email protected] before October 30.
Our goal is to ensure municipalities are able to use MOST funding to offset fiscal challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, without unnecessary red tape.
We recognize that not all municipalities had the resources and capacity to accurately track pandemic-related fiscal impacts as they were occurring.
We recommend that municipalities use invoices, timesheets, and other accounting tools that are part of typical municipal business practices to identify increased expenses, use year-to-year comparisons for reduced revenues, and retain these records in case they are required to meet unanticipated federal reporting requirements. We will not require detailed proof of expenses incurred or revenue lost.
Each municipality that receives MOST funding will receive a statement of funding and expenditure form at a later date and will be required to submit this form to us by July 2, 2021.
More details on reporting will be available when the statement of funding and expenditure is released, but we anticipate that requirements will be minimal, with municipalities’ use of the grant reported in broad categories, such as the examples provided in the guidelines, similar to the Municipal Sustainability Initiative operating statement of funding and expenditures.
Determining lost revenue
We recommend a comparison of revenue in areas such as, but not limited to, user fees, building permits, or property tax collection rates decreased during the pandemic period compared to the same period in the previous year.
Alternatively, the comparison could be between a 2020 budget passed prior to the pandemic and a budget amended in response to the pandemic.
You are not required to provide comparative data in the statement of funding and expenditures process but are encouraged to use these approaches to develop an estimate of COVID-19-related revenue impacts. Municipalities should retain this information even though it is not required to be submitted.
You are not required to provide proof that costs are linked to COVID-19.
To determine whether a staffing cost is associated with COVID-19, we encourage you to consider the decision that led to the costs, such as management approval for overtime and hiring decisions, then determine whether that decision would have been made differently in the absence of COVID-19.
It is best practice to retain records associated with these decisions, but we do not require them for the MOST program.
Distributing funds to others
Any contributions municipalities make to fund another entity, including another municipality, a regional entity, a housing management body, a local economic development agency or a non-profit organization will be eligible for MOST funding if the decision can be reasonably linked to COVID-19.
For example, a municipality may use MOST funding to contribute to an agricultural society that operates the local arena for a purpose related to COVID-19.
Unpaid property taxes
Any property taxes from the 2020 property tax year that remain uncollected as of March 31, 2021 are eligible as lost revenue and MOST funding can be used to compensate.
There is no need to write off these unpaid taxes and municipalities should continue with all available tax collection methods. Later collection of the taxes will not retroactively impact MOST funding.
MOST funding may be used to off-set forgiven property taxes.
COVID-19-related capital expenses
While MOST funding is described as operating funding, it can be used for a very broad range of expenses associated with the pandemic response, including some that may be considered capital in some smaller municipalities.
This includes small renovations to add a barrier to a customer-facing reception area or purchase of camera equipment to broadcast council meetings.
MOST funding may not be used to pay employees who were on the payroll before COVID-19 since they are part of the operation of the municipality.
However, incremental expenditures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible. For example, a municipality may use MOST funding if an employee is seconded to an emergency operations centre and a temporary employee is hired to backfill them.
If an employee has additional COVID-19-related cleaning duties and then requires overtime to fulfill their normal duties, then the overtime costs would be eligible under MOST.
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