As self-isolation continues, many businesses in Mission have been forced to alter the way they work, lay off employees, or even shut down entirely – and the District of Mission is not immune to these actions.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the district has been forced to lay off 66 contract workers to date.
“Those people are workers at the leisure centre, so they would do jobs like Club Kids (child care), weight room attendants, some programming and, with the public not there any more, there’s just no work for those people,” explained chief administrative officer Mike Younie.
He said they are re-evaluating what the staffing needs are every few days.
Despite the layoffs, business, especially development, continues in one form or another.
Mission Mayor Pam Alexis said things were “kind of in limbo” for awhile, but the district continues to receive development applications and has “rejigged” how people bring in plans so it’s safe for staff.
“We are doing business differently, but business, for the most part, in development services is certainly continuing,” Alexis said. “Everybody went into a bit of shock, I think, in the beginning, but things now are our new normal and so we are sort of used to that.”
One question that keeps being asked is if the district will provide any financial aid or incentives to help residents pay municipal property taxes this summer.
Younie said Mission, and other communities, take part in a weekly phone call with Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and taxes are the number-one issue discussed.
“We continue to push the province to have a look at possible deferrals, similar to expanding the existing deferral program basically,” Younie said. “So we’re expecting an answer in the coming weeks.”
District staff have been working with non-profit groups trying to help the homeless and seniors who rely on programs (Meals on Wheels as an example). They have been distributing hand-washing materials and identifying isolation areas if they become needed.
“Most of this is planning. It’s an odd situation. It’s not a flood, not a landslide, where we can respond with our trucks and our staff to take care of issues. This is all about planning and making sure you are ready for the worst case scenario,” Younie said.
Alexis believes most Missionites are practising social distancing and feels the district, like the province, is doing well.
“We have to continue to be vigilant, especially with better weather coming,” she said.
Younie agreed, saying family units can be seen out at parks and walking together, but others give a wide berth. There have been no complaints about people congregating together.
The one exception is the Stave West area. Younie said there are some concerns there.
“So we’ve tried to start more patrols up there with bylaws and firefighters, as there is a fire ban and there are reports of fires up there.”