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Council committee gets overview of pandemic’s impact on City staff and finances

Hamilton, ON – Since the pandemic started, the City has had to navigate financial uncertainty, redeploy hundreds of staff, and has seen a significant increase in the demand for mental health supports, a City report highlights.

In a report to the City’s General Issues Committee Wednesday in advance of final budget deliberations, members of Council were also advised of the pandemic’s impact on City services, capital projects and payroll.

In addition to forgoing revenue due to service impacts such as reduced transit ridership and recreation centre closures, the City also incurred additional costs related to the pandemic for personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, workplace modifications and increased investments to support people experiencing homelessness.

To accommodate for lost revenues, increased costs and uncertainly early in the pandemic that saw a forecasted City deficit of between $60 and $100 million, the City engaged in a number of proactive cost-saving measures to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the municipal budget.

Cost-saving measures employed by the City included placing more than 1,300 part-time and casual staff on Declared Emergency Leave, delaying more than $29 million in capital projects and placing $1.1 million in a COVID capital reserve.

The pandemic also resulted in a 2.3% increase in overtime compared to 2019 for a total cost of $580,000, which is cost recoverable from the more than $160 million in pandemic support funding provided to the City of Hamilton by the federal and provincial governments. The City also saw a 37% increase in unused vacation in 2020 that has been carried over to 2021 (at a potential cost of $1.83 million).

More than 22% of City staff, approximately 1,800 people, are currently working from home with the majority of staff working in their conventional, modified or redeployed roles.

The City has seen a significant increase in employees accessing wellness programs it offers, including a 530% increase in staff accessing mental health supports and a 244% increase in staff seeking guidance in stress management.

“Municipalities have taken extraordinary measures to support residents through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing essential services they count on. At the same time, we have experienced unprecedented declines in revenues. With support from our federal and provincial partners through a Safe Restart Agreement, which provides emergency funding needed to help us through this pandemic, we can now ensure the restart and recovery of our economy is safe and successful.” - Mayor Fred Eisenberger, City of Hamilton

“Our employees have been extremely responsive to requests for redeployment, demonstrating their commitment to the ongoing effective delivery of our City services as well as ensuring that the vaccine clinics are run smoothly and efficiently, demonstrating their steadfast commitment to the health and safety of our community.” - Lora Fontana, Executive Director of Human Resources, City of Hamilton

“The pandemic has resulted in a lot of increased costs and lost revenues that have presented significant challenges to the City of Hamilton at different times. While much uncertainty still looms, support from the provincial and federal governments have allowed the City to avoid some of the most significant financial impacts of COVID-19 being experienced elsewhere in the world.” - Brian McMullen, Director of Financial Planning, Administration and Policy, City of Hamilton

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